Maine's problematic proposed revisions to science standards under fire

Maine's statehouse.

Joseph L. Graves Jr. of North Carolina A&T State University, a member of NCSE's board of directors, and Allison Riley Miller of Bowdoin College criticized a proposal to revise Maine's science standards to encourage middle school science teachers to incorporate teaching about genocide, eugenics, and the Holocaust in a commentary published in the Portland Press-Herald (January 28, 2024).

"The idea is praiseworthy in principle," Miller and Graves wrote. "But the execution in this case is objectionable," they added, citing the inaccurate and misleading nature of the proposed revisions. Miller and Graves also worried about the effect on students, whose "ability to learn about evolution," they argued, "will be impeded by their natural reactions to a discussion of the horrific events mentioned in the proposed revisions."

The issue of teacher preparation is also of concern. Miller and Graves observed that science teachers have generally not been equipped to teach history. Moreover, they added, "the standards that Maine's science teachers have been using were adopted only in 2019, and the teachers are still getting used to their demands. Now is not a good time to impose further, ill-thought-out, burdens on them."

"All these criticisms have been registered with the Maine Department of Education, which unaccountably seems to be ignoring them," Miller and Graves concluded. "The decision whether to adopt these flawed revisions is now up to the Legislature, which has the responsibility of reviewing the standards. We earnestly hope that the Legislature will do right by science, history, and Maine's public school teachers and students."

The proposal to revise the standards was sent to the legislature via House Paper 1397 (Legislative Document 2182) and was referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, which scheduled a hearing for February 8, 2024. Despite the criticisms of the proposed revisions offered during the public comment period, which have not been publicly released, the proposal (PDF) was apparently not changed at all in response.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.