Texas climate change education in the news again

Texas state board of education

The treatment of climate change in Texas's state science standards is again in the news as the state board of education approaches a final decision on proposed revisions.

The Texas Tribune (November 16, 2021) noted that, in the proposed standards, students are expected to learn how "natural events and human activity can impact climate." The word "can" is misleading, Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network explained: the influence of human activity on climate is not a mere possibility but a reality.

Mentioned in the same article was the open letter (PDF) to the board, organized by NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network, in which dozens of Texas scientists who study and teach about climate change urged the board to continue to improve the treatment of climate change in the standards, including by eliminating the word "can" in the quoted passage.

Teaching about climate change doesn't just prepare students to succeed in college-level work if they choose to further their education after high school," commented Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University. "It also helps students become informed voters who understand the stakes and can make responsible decisions as we work together to find real solutions to the problem."

The Texas Observer (November 17, 2021), interviewing Katie Worth about her new book Miseducation: How Climate Change is Taught in America, began by noting that Texas received the grade of F for the treatment of climate change in its state science standards in the "Making the Grade?" report issued by NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund in 2020.

Joking that "[p]eople's eyes tend to glaze over when I start talking about academic standards, because it's an arcane bureaucratic thing," Worth emphasized the importance of state science standards as "the state's main lever of control over a classroom," ideally serving as both a guide and a shield for teachers.

Responding to the interviewer's comment "I've met a lot of kids who are from conservative areas in Texas but who are very much taking on climate change as their cause," Worth observed, "[K]ids care more about climate change than their parents or grandparents. ... [W]hat happens in schools is important, but it's not the only important thing."

The board is expected to hold its final vote on the proposed revisions to the science standards for kindergarten to grade 8 on November 19, 2021.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.