The Public Education Department of New Mexico proposed new teaching standards this week that remove references to evolution and global climate change from the state science curriculum. While the standards are based on the Next Generation Science Standards, which have been adopted by 18 states, New Mexico has planned for deletion of key references. Mother Jones reports:

The draft released by New Mexico’s education officials changes the language of a number of NGSS guidelines, downplaying the rise in global temperatures, striking references to human activity as the primary cause of climate change, and cutting one mention of evolution while weakening others. The standards would even remove a reference to the scientifically agreed-upon age of the Earth—nearly 4.6 billion years. (Young Earth creationists use various passages in the Bible to argue that the planet is only a few thousand years old.)

“These changes are evidently intended to placate creationists and climate change deniers,” says Glenn Branch, the deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit group that defends the teaching of climate change, evolution, and other scientific-backed subjects in the classroom. The proposed changes, Branch added, “would dumb down New Mexico’s science education.”

Mother Jones describes several specific proposed changes. A passage about geology for middle schoolers would eliminate the age of the earth, instead referring only to the planet’s “geologic history.” A reference to “the process of evolution” will be replaced with “biological diversity.” Mentions of “rise in global temperatures” are changed to “climate fluctuations,” and an explicit plug for the state’s oil and gas industry is made, prompting the reader to “describe the benefits associated with technologies related to the local industries and energy production.” The Albuquerque Journal says:

The plan was criticized Friday by Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, who called it a “perverted, watered-down vision” of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Ly accused Ruszkowski in a written statement of proposing standards “that question climate change, deny evolution, promote the fossil fuel industry, and even question the age of the Earth – all areas of consensus among the scientific community.”

One proposed addition to the high school curriculum asks students to use a model to describe the effects of energy flows on Earth “that were caused by natural occurrences that are not related to human activity.”

While school districts are free to set their own curriculum, the state science standards provide a blueprint for what will be taught—meaning that if evolution, climate change and the age of the earth are eliminated from the state standards, that becomes optional material.

After the story was published in Mother Jones, a spokeswoman for New Mexico’s Public Education Department issued the following response:

“The PED has and will continue to listen and respond to input from all of New Mexico’s stakeholders across the state when putting together new content standards, from the fine arts to the STEM fields, that haven’t been updated in the last decade. It is time for New Mexico to again raise the bar. We must come together and push forward so that our kids can prepare to advance in their career prospects in the 21st century,” said Deputy Secretary of School Transformation Debbie Montoya. “As science, technology, and engineering advance in concert with our business and industry partners, New Mexico is working hard to ensure that children have access to the most rigorous standards and assessments while also expanding science resources and opportunity for schools and educators.”

The new standards may have been developed to please the state’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, who vetoed a bill in April that would have adopted the unaltered Next Generation Science Standards.

The standards were published on Tuesday, and the New Mexico Public Education Department will accept written comments on them through Oct. 16. The department will hold a public hearing on the proposed standards at 9 a.m. on Oct. 16 at the Jerry Apodaca Education Building in Santa Fe.

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