Science: Pa. needs to keep up
Local control of public education is a deeply rooted American tradition. There is no such thing as local control of scientific fact, however, so science education should be based on uniform standards regardless of how states and local school districts otherwise administer their schools.
A group led by the National Academy of Sciences has developed Next Generation Science Standards, the first revision of fundamental science education standards in 15 years. The NAS' research arm, the National Research Council, was joined in the development effort by the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Achieve, a nonprofit, non-partisan education reform organization formed by governors and business leaders in 1996. Education officials from 26 states, not including Pennsylvania, worked with the other organizations.
Since their release in April, the standards have been adopted by Rhode Island, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland and Vermont, and have been introduced for adoption in California, Florida, Maine, Michigan and Washington.
The new standards cover science education from kindergarten through high school. For the first time, the new standards recommend instructing middle school students in climate change and evolution.
That counters a dangerous movement in some states to allow the teaching of creationism as if it were science, rather than being rooted in religion and political ideology.
Likewise, movements in some states have sprung up to prohibit instruction in the science of climate change.
People are free to believe to what they choose, but that's a matter of political science rather than biology, chemistry or physics.
Adherence to standards defining science are crucial for children, who deserve to know how the world in which they live actually works, and for the nation, which must have a population well-educated in science if it hopes to be a global leader in science and every other field.
Pennsylvania must adopt the standards if it wants to ensure that its students remain competitive with those in other states and abroad.