Last Sunday’s editorial “Facts No Longer Exist for Some Idaho Lawmakers” did not come close to understanding the “Science Standards” discussion. The editorial board suggests that science standards are 100 percent about climate change.
This debate began last year when a temporary rule to update Idaho’s Science Standards was presented to the legislature for approval. There were an estimated 370 parts to the temporary rule and the legislature approved all but one Performance Standard and four sections of Supporting Content. The Education Committee asked that the Standard and Supporting Contents remove language that leads to only one conclusion — that humans are the primary cause of global warming. We did not suggest that the Science Standards should exclude the study of climate or climate change, or that humans do not contribute.
This year, some public testimony suggested that the current Idaho Science Standards are inadequate, and the Education Committee agrees. Some statements from committee members stated that the proposed standards are not sufficiently rigorous. The standards have become a rally cry that the legislature does not want climate change in the standards. This is not true. There are many acceptable standards that address climate change in the temporary rule and this year’s pending rule. Much of the challenge has to do with “Supporting Content.”
Last year the education committee provided direction to avoid imbedding language in the standards or supporting content such as, “are the primary factors”. Using “contributing factors” could be a better choice of words. This request was ignored in several supporting contents; thus, we have this emotional discussion and assumption that the Education Committee wants to eliminate a standard on climate change.
I was accurately quoted that “geologic history” indicates that climate has changed for a variety of reasons for billions of years. My point, teachers need standards to help students discover all explanations of climate change and not start from the conclusion that one factor is more important than any other contributing factor. We should include human activities in the list of factors that contribute to climate change.
On Thursday, the Times-News had an original story on the committee action. I was interviewed for about 15 minutes. I emphasized numerous points, not covered in the story. Over 99 percent of the standards were approved. Supporting Content, which is like an appendix or footnotes, were removed. As you can see, the unique terminology of education is challenging. Our action allows school districts and teachers the flexibility to do their jobs. I explained thoroughly that “supporting content” is not found in any Idaho Standards including Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, etc. Thursday’s story, claims we removed “supplemental standards”. There are no “supplemental standards.” The one science performance standard that was removed this week made no mention of climate change. It included additional language as a “Further Explanation” to encourage teachers to use examples of “negative biological impacts”. Comments from the committee, not reported, asked why only negative impacts of such things as wind turbines should be in the rule. I suggested we leave the standard alone and remove the “Further Explanation” language. We were told by the Rules Administrator that our only option was to reject the Content Standard, which includes the “Further Explanation.”
The editorial “Our View” was written based upon a story from the Spokesman-Review. This story had a very narrow focus on the testimony. A majority of which was attempting to defend climate change. The story ignored the committee’s frustration with the wording. The committee’s questions and comments were focused on the language of the “supporting content” not the standards. I would ask the editorial board to at least reach out for an interview before relying on news that is not written by their reporters. I am always accessible and more than willing to visit with the Times-News anytime. This is a complicated issue and I apologize for the length of my response. I also understand how the public and even a reporter can get confused. Facts do exist, and the Times-News should have made more of an effort to get all of them.