Field of Science

Science Standards and Global Warming

The final draft of the Minnesota K-12 Science Standards is not yet finalized. However, some concern has been raised as highlighted by this MinnPost article. In short the concern is that there is not enough overt emphasis on global warming and/or global systems. (BTW Im sick of this trendy new "systems" terminology that is apparently epidemic in the sciences now. No one does genetics, you have to do genome systems research to be cool.)

Dr. Rudnick is clearly on top of the global warming issue and wants its importance to society highlighted in the science standards. While a noble goal, is that really the purpose of the standards? We want to have scientifically literate citizens. We want citizens to be able to think critically and rationally, science provides tools to do that. Do we want global warming experts? As noted in an update for the article, there are various points throughout the standards including the earth sciences, physical science, and life sciences. It seems Dr. Rudnick will not be happy unless there is a dedicated section of the standards dedicated specifically to global warming. The standards are not curriculum, although the standards to help establish curriculum. If a school district wants to encompass a set of standards and benchmarks into a module devoted to global systems, it can. However, it is not required to.

I understand the importance of understanding and training people to deal with the effects of global warming. However, I think Dr. Rudnick takes it too far. He says the "standards are fundamentally flawed" and that the Dept. of Education "immediately suspend the current process" (emphasis mine). Nice sense of self-importance there. In the comments section, Dr. Rudnick provides a copy of the letter he sent to the Dept. of Education Commissioner Seagren. I, for one, appreciate his candor and passion. However, as I read Dr. Rudnick's letter I got the sense that he is not so much interested in the scientific education of Minnesota students (I know this is a gross overstatement) but in preparing a legion of scientists to combat global warming. Im not sure, but is it ethical to "draft" our K-12 students into global system sciences without a referendum or something similar? There are standards devoted to species extinction, environmental change, water cycles, greenhouse gases, or at least the important concepts behind these issues, isn't this enough? Are these standards only applicable to global warming and if not, should we make it seem like they are?

I do not mean to imply or diminish the critical importance climate change will certainly have on the next few generations. However, that does not mean I support an approach to essentially force a generation of students interested in science into a global warming-curricula. When Sputnik flew overhead did schools across the nation dump physics and chemistry to focus on rocketry and jet propulsion? When Russia obtained nuclear technology, did we have mandated nuclear physics curricula? Just saying...

While I disagree with Dr. Rudnick's inherent accusation that the science standard committee fundamentally failed and I disagree with the over-the-top rhetoric used in his letter. I will commend him for taking a pro-science stand and being passionate about K-12 science education.

4 comments:

Mike Haubrich, FCD said...

By your read, it seems as though he is wanting to teach conclusions over process. Right?

The Lorax said...

Well that is not the point I was most focused on, nor do I think that is his primary goal (teaching conclusions over process). However, that issue is a concern and does seem to be inherent in the emphasis Dr. Rudnick suggests. I believe he is a staunch defender of science, the question is the methods to teach science and the goals of this in my mind. I believe his focus is narrow (albeit because of this huge problem facing us) and that is a potential disservice to the next generation of students.

"Who turned off the shaker?" said...

Totally off topic but...have you ever been to the blog "Cake Wrecks"? (http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/) I think it's funny and I think that you might as well...

sunnyskeptic said...

Yes, that seems a bit over the top. We should be teaching about climate change and global warming, but not to the extent of making little armies of scientists. :) That just sounds weird even thinking or typing it.