The Santa Fe school board is looking for scientists to help educate state education officials.
Earlier this week, board members approved a plan for a “teach-in” at the New Mexico Public Education Department’s downtown offices a few days before the agency holds a hearing to gather public input on proposed sweeping changes to the state’s science education standards.
Released two weeks ago, the changes have drawn criticism in the state and across the nation because they downplay evolution by replacing the term with phrases like “biological diversity,” eliminate all references to the age of the Earth and don’t address the role humans have played in global warming. In fact, unlike the current standards, the proposed new standards make no mention of climate change.
School board member Steven Carrillo suggested the teach-in during a board meeting Tuesday, saying, “It should be fun.”
Carrillo unsuccessfully pitched an idea to the board last week to hold a full-blown Santa Fe Public Schools protest of the new science standards, much like the district’s “snow day for action” in April at the state Capitol, a well-attended rally held in support of education funding. While the board wouldn’t back another “snow day,” the teach-in had more support.
The board voted 4-0 Tuesday in favor of the event, planned from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Oct. 13, at the department’s offices, 300 Don Gaspar Ave. The public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 16.
“We will have six or seven science lessons about climate change, evolution, the beginning of the universe,” Carrillo said of the teach-in.
“The most important thing,” he told fellow board members Maureen Cashmon, Kate Noble and Lorraine Price, “is recognizing that science matters.”
The proposed new state science standards are largely based on the Next Generation Science Standards created by the nonprofit National Science Teachers Association. So far, those teaching guidelines, touted as a comprehensive and interactive approach to teaching science principles, have been adopted by 18 states. But New Mexico’s version leaves out some key concepts.
State Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski has said New Mexico’s new standards would set more rigorous goals for students to compete in an increasingly STEM-focused world — meaning science, technology, engineering and math — while also appealing to the state’s “diverse” population.
But critics, including scientists and educators, say the education department, by failing to acknowledge climate change and watering down lessons on evolution, is bringing politics into the classroom.
Cashmon, the Santa Fe school board member, said the local district “is not thinking of adopting these standards.”
Carrillo said the teach-in won’t require any district funding or advertising efforts.
In an interview Thursday, he said he thinks scientists and educators will come together “organically” to make the teach-in happen.
“I think there are many prominent scientists in the community who are very concerned about the PED’s desire to change these standards and will welcome the opportunity to take part in a nonconfrontational protest,” Carrillo said.
Genie Stevens, executive director of the Santa Fe-based Global Warming Express, a nonprofit group initiated by kids that provides after-school programming in science, arts and civic engagement for children ages 8 to 12, said the teach-in is “a great idea.”
“It’s important to remind ourselves about the importance of teaching accurate science, based on facts, to children,” Stevens said. Kids, she said, “need to learn about climate science and sustainable solutions. If they don’t know that, they won’t be prepared for the world they are growing up into.”
Contact Robert Nott at 505-986-3021 or email@example.com.