Gov. Susana Martinez wants to mislead New Mexico’s students about critical scientific facts, setting them up for a future of ignorance and confusion (“Inexact science?” Sept. 24). Her Public Education Department this month published public schools science curriculum standards that promote dishonest ideas pushed by the religious right and the oil industry. The consequences could be serious for our kids’ job futures and for the economy of New Mexico.
The Martinez administration edited the Next Generation Science Standards that most states are adopting to improve science education for our kids. The United States is scrambling to upgrade its science and math teaching so we can compete in a rapidly advancing world with serious environmental and economic challenges. The Martinez administration edited out facts even conservative states are teaching related to global warming, biology and basic geology.
Science is the process through which we understand how reality works in as honest and real a way possible. Scientists gather information, put together ideas of how things work, test those ideas and have all other relevant scientists rigorously check their work. Every day we experience the success of this scientific process in all of the technology we have and with all of the drugs and medical care we get. Modern life is a product of real science.
Science cannot be altered with religious or political beliefs that have no actual basis in reality or it is no longer science. We can’t ignore known scientific facts to protect some people’s religious beliefs or to protect powerful economic sectors. If we do, we will not have a working scientific community that will find ways to solve our most serious problems like disease, the environmental crisis or the need for new technology. Science only works with the complete picture and dead honesty about everything we actually know.
Apparently the state Public Education Department doesn’t understand this. They edited New Mexico’s education standards to omit the fact that scientists know the Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. Worse, they injected a complete falsehood about global warming, saying that the climate is “fluctuating” rather than warming. Why lie to our children about a crisis that will dominate their lives and may even end their lives?
The oil industry, specifically the owners of Koch Industries, have developed an extensive network of front organizations to lie to Americans about global warming because they want to protect their profits and block government action to protect the public and the environment. Koch organizations (like the Heartland Institute) and others have been injecting false ideas about climate science into government and public schools nationwide.
New Mexico has serious problems. Young people are leaving our state. Clean industries like high tech are not moving here. Our universities are shrinking as students chose other states for their educations. For example, when Amazon seeks a new center, they won’t consider New Mexico, largely because of a lack of young, educated workforce.
Playing politics with education and failing to teach our kids real science is a serious disservice to everyone in the state. We cannot build a better, new economy when we fail to separate church and state and when we perpetuate ignorance in order to prop up the dying oil and coal industries.
Tom Ribe is a Santa Fe writer specializing in science and nature.