Last year, I moved to Texas. Back then, I had no idea that people still teach Creationism in science classrooms. My learnings about its persistence come from the time I spent with a group of scientists and researchers from Texas University. With these people, I testified for the SBE (State Board of Education). The board streamlines the science standards and has incorporated a language in the evolution standards from the creationist movement. The hearing is a firsthand glimpse at the campaign that has been successful in making evolution controversial.
When we arrive to testify, we find others ready to speak about what’s in their minds. Some angry parents and guardians snap about religious concepts having no place in science classrooms and people who represent conservative think tanks who quietly discuss specific clauses and standard phrases. These people never mention Creationism or evolution explicitly. These representatives are from institutes with religious motives, and they argue the unsettling science of change. In 2009, the state board agreed to the appeal of examining all sides of scientific evidence while teaching evolution even though evolution doesn’t have any sides.
Growing skepticism towards science
The advocacy groups are successfully pushing the argument in several states, even while continuously losing major court cases since creation science inception in 1963. . The studies show that Americans doubt natural selection theory. In 2015, a pew report found that, although 62 percent of the American population believe that humans evolve in time, only 33 percent believe that life becomes entirely through natural processes. In 2005, only around 40 percent of Americans said that they accept the idea of evolution, down from 45 percent 20 years before.
A part of the American population, especially youth, believes in Simulation Creationism. This version of Creationism brings religion and science together. People think that God has programmed this universe, and the things that happen in this world are already pre-decided. We live in simulated reality programmed by either God or advanced civilizations. Simulation Creationism is getting popular with the support of intellectual beings.
Among community college biology students in Texas, 85 percent are spending five hours or less learning about evolution. At Minnesota University, 64 percent of students report that their biology course has both evolution and Creationism. And it is likely violating court rulings about the balanced treatment being unconstitutional.
A similar type of group is trying to apply this strategy to the teaching of climate change. Only half the Americans believe that humans are the primary cause of climate change. That is the lowest of all countries in a 2014 poll. According to a 2016 scientific study, 71 percent of science lecturers teach about recent climate change at least for an hour. But teachers report teaching climate change at least 5.5 hours on average. However, 30 percent of the teachers emphasize that climate change is due to natural causes. Thirty-one percent of people report that they teach both sides of climate change.
Science, faith, and politics
Since the early 1920s, the creationist movement has bound the belief on evolution with political views. People teach Creationism in American science classrooms because they believe that there is a conflict between evolution and literal interpretation of the Bible and therefore conflicts with strains of Christian belief and ideology.
Similarly, polls display climate change has become partisan politics and ideology despite its efforts to convince evangelical Christians that climate change is a Christian issue. According to a scientific study, the suitable predictor of whether a lecturer teaches both sides of climate change was whether people agreed with the statement that it’s not the government’s responsibility to protect people from themselves.
Teachers and students report that people avoid controversial topics for some reason. Teachers fear the reaction from the parents. People receive little or zero support from the administration. Lecturers feel ignorant of their subjects, and there is uncertainty about the scientific consensus. For all the controversial talk, more than 95 percent of scientists choose to teach only evolution. Over 97 percent of researchers accept that humans are the reason for climate change. But, only 45 percent of school teachers believe in human-caused climate change.
There is a compilation of standards for each subject in the United States of America’s education system; these standards decide what topics go into textbooks and how much students are supposed to learn in each grade. Teachers and schools then design a curriculum to reach that end. Education officers use different methods in different states. But in each state, the Board of Education determines the standards. In twenty-four states, elections determine either a part of or the entire board. In other states, the governor has the power to appoint members. In both cases, people require little or no qualifications.
In the city of Texas, board members are the state’s most powerful elected representatives. Board members represent more people than congressional representatives or state senators. According to the NASBE (National Association of State Boards of Education), the mission is to incorporate the public concerns, policymakers, business leaders, and civic groups with educational standards, accreditation, graduate requirements, and qualification requirements.
After the 2016 election, there is a proposal of a new wave of bills and resolutions by the state leaders. These bills would allow greater academic freedom in science classrooms. These resolutions and statements would encourage lecturers to teach diverse and dissenting views on basic consensus science in practice.
For instance, in Florida, there was a law by lawmakers last July. It allows any resident to object to classroom materials. The law has the support of a conservative group of Florida citizens. One group leader says to PBS that those textbooks seldom mention Christianity and show bias towards Islam. People should teach kids Darwin’s theory and biblical view in the same manner since both approaches are just theories.
Idaho lawmakers take an even more direct approach. The State Legislature rejected new science standards last February, the first time since 2001, because of the disapproval of new terms about the role of human activity and climate change by Republican representatives.
Meanwhile, Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, has cast its efforts nationwide. The organization published a report by NIPCC (Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), a riff on IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) that publishes periodic reports of climate change. Three scientists write NIPCC words. These scientists argue that carbon dioxide isn’t driving global warming, and IPCC reports are not credible and are biased. The Heartland Institute mails its notice to more than 300,000 public school teachers along with a DVD. It encourages them to use those materials in classrooms.
To counter the campaigns that try to remove science from public classrooms, we need people who come up and argue for the inclusion of climate change in the public school syllabus. Before I appear in front of the Board of Education, testifying is intimidating. Afterward, I realize that I helped push the board to remove some of the creationist languages last year by calmly stating all the qualifications, opinions, and scientific evidence.
Anybody can involve themselves with their state boards, and it’s the board’s job to hear people out. I have learned several things.
You should be specific. Often the board only considers a particular piece of proposed language, so frame the argument around why or why not the council should accept your idea. There is no need for general principles or grandstand.
It would help if you always stayed calm. These meetings draw out a lot of passion from people but getting loud or angry makes people dismiss your ideas.
You should get copies of statements in writing. Any additional documents or evidence for each board member and the office staff can influence the board members and supply documents.
You should always be aware of and pay attention to the time limit. Most of the time, you will have only a few minutes to testify, and then you will be cut off.
Be proud. Involvements push the boards to do better. If you need support or feel hesitant, try reaching out to a local community or any non-profit group. These groups will help to get you started.
The efforts are essential. Evidence suggests that the best prediction of whether a school student believes in human activities is why climate change can happen by predicting whether the science lecturer believes climate change exists at all – regardless of their belief in human causes. Skepticism affects adolescents. These adolescents perceive skepticism in their parents and peers. Still, they are better than parents in evaluating evidence independent of ideologies with a good climate education. The key is to ensure that lecturers include climate change in their lessons.
We can’t let the USA’s acceptance of climate change fall further, just like the effects of climate change around us.