Editorial: PED's science standards are patently unscientific - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: PED’s science standards are patently unscientific

Many in New Mexico – home to three research universities, three national labs and a penchant for attracting high-tech companies – are aghast that their Public Education Department plans to veer away from hard science in its classrooms.

With good reason.

While the core recommended standards are based on a science curriculum called the Next Generation Science Standards proposed in 2013 by a consortium of 26 states, just over a week ago, PED Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski unveiled proposed adjustments critics say omit references to evolution, rising global temperatures and the age of Earth from the state’s science curriculum. PED’s additions and deletions might sit well with far-right conservatives and evangelicals, but they fly in the face of accepted science.

And they are breathtaking in their offensiveness, both to the scientific method and the drive to strengthen STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. Among the changes the PED proposes are: eliminating a reference to Earth’s “4.6-billion-year history” and replacing it with “geologic history” in the middle-school curriculum; omitting a reference to a “rise in global temperatures” and replacing it with “fluctuations” in temperature; and omitting the word “evolution” and replacing it with the phrase “biological diversity.”

In 2013, the PED’s own Math and Science Advisory Council unanimously supported adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards “as written without any modifications,” but former education Secretary Hanna Skandera never acted on the recommendation.

We are flummoxed over why a department that stresses data-driven results, even to the point of antagonizing many constituents, would ignore data to suggest such changes. To make matters worse, Ruszkowski trots out these clearly unscientific recommendations as educators and employers push hard for STEM courses in our public schools, and years into an administration that has fought to adjust teaching requirements so more professional scientists and mathematicians can lead K-12 classrooms.

Reaction has been decidedly one-sided. Kim Johnson, a physicist and former president of the New Mexico Academy of Science, says, “I’m certainly not going to move a high-tech company here, because I’m not going to get a scientifically educated population. … We’re doing the one thing in terms of educating our children that tends to push those kinds of businesses away.”

Ruszkowski says his proposal gives New Mexico an opportunity to update its science curriculum in a way that reflects the “diversity of perspectives” in New Mexico. But a “diversity of perspectives” belongs in sociology or theology class – it runs counter to the scientific process that, through experimentation and verification, turns theory into accepted fact or fiction, not something in between.

Whether Ruszkowski is bowing to political pressure to water down the science curriculum that New Mexico teachers will deliver to students – or simply doesn’t believe in climate change, evolution or scientific dating processes – his recommendations are deeply troubling and take New Mexico in the wrong direction for education and the new economy.

Fortunately, the PED is accepting written comments on its problematic proposal through Oct. 16 and will hold a public hearing on the proposed standards at 9 a.m. Oct. 16 at the Jerry Apodaca Education Building, 300 Don Gaspar Ave. in Santa Fe.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

Ad Tango

taboola desktop


Editorial: NM must change state law so killers can't ...
Matthew Chavez is serving a 23-year ... Matthew Chavez is serving a 23-year prison term for second-degree murder in the death of an Army vet ...
Editorial: NM needs proof that $4.6M in ‘academic coaching’ ...
It sounds like a great idea. ... It sounds like a great idea. A big team that can reach out to absentee or stuck-at-home students via ...
Editorial: Governor should not grab starring role
Lights! Camera! Action! was the traditional ... Lights! Camera! Action! was the traditional cue to members of a film crew at the beginning of a R ...
Editorial: Time is now to fix NM pedestrian 'death ...
The stretch of south Coors Boulevard ... The stretch of south Coors Boulevard where Brendan McClure was struck and killed by a Bernalillo Cou ...
Editorial: Keller best of field
Albuquerque is in the midst of ... Albuquerque is in the midst of a surge of violent crime and it's of no solace whatsoever to th ...
Webber is the choice for mayor
We support Webber's reelection, while hoping ... We support Webber's reelection, while hoping City Hall can move beyond its anti-transparency attitude to become more responsive
Editorial: A new stadium has appeal, but proposal needs ...
It's not a bad idea. In ... It's not a bad idea. In fact, it's one with considerable appeal and worthy of considerat ...
Editorial: Journal picks for the ABQ City Council
Today the Journal Editorial Board continues ... Today the Journal Editorial Board continues its endorsements in the Nov. 2 municipal election with i ...
Editorial: Journal picks for APS Board of Education
This is an important election as ... This is an important election as the state's largest school district faces challenges in how best to educate our children