Bloomberg looks at climate education with NCSE's help

Climate change word wall in a school.

Prompted by the ongoing controversy over the treatment of climate change in textbooks submitted for state adoption in Texas, Mark Gongloff, a columnist for Bloomberg, took a look at the state of climate change education in the United States, with NCSE's help. The result appeared on Bloomberg (October 24, 2023, subscription required) and was republished by the Washington Post (October 24, 2023).

Gongloff began with Katie Worth's recent analysis of the textbooks for Scientific American. Examining the grade 8 science textbooks submitted for approval by the three largest K-12 publishers, Worth "found that the proposed new textbooks include much more robust information about the climate crisis than their earlier editions did. In some cases, however, the books appear to cloud the human causes of the crisis," as NCSE previously reported.

Textbooks are influenced by standards, and the column consequently discussed "Making the Grade?" — the 2020 study by NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network — in which Texas's standards received the grade of F. "Recent changes to Texas' standards might just merit an upgrade to a 'D,' NCSE deputy director Glenn Branch told me. ... 'Overall, despite Texas, we're seeing signs of progress,' Branch said, 'but we still have a long way to go.'"

"The trouble is," Gongloff added, "to paraphrase singer and actor Jerry Reed, we've got a long way to go but a short time to get there," especially because "Actual instruction varies from district to district and from classroom to classroom." He cited the 2014-2015 NCSE/Penn State survey (PDF) of science educators as showing that "almost a third of all US middle- and high-school science teachers taught mixed messages about the causes of climate change."

The column recommended, "One thing people can do is put more pressure on textbook publishers, educators and school-board members to not only catch up with current climate science but to give the issue the attention it deserves, across multiple classrooms and grades," in light of the fact that "[c]limate change is the most important issue of our children’s lifetimes, potentially impacting every aspect of their lives."

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.