Idaho moves to include climate change in its school curriculum

by Katherine Monsef

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The issue of climate change presents itself as the ultimate battle between science, politics, and religious beliefs. Within the Republican-dominated state of Idaho, many citizens believe climate change science should be removed from the school system standards. Residents want to have the state legislature prohibit the inclusion of climate change material in the science requirements, despite recent changes made last week. The legislature moved to add some information about anthropogenic climate change into the required curriculum.

Although the Idaho House Education Committee voted in favor of the idea to include climate change, it also removed many sentences that talked about ways in which humans can reduce their effects on the environment. The teachers and families of students hoped to win over the legislature with their revisions to the standards. Citizens of Idaho began developing and pushing for additions of climate change to curriculum since 2016, and on Feb. 7, voting took place.

For the new curriculum standards, the director of academics at the Idaho State Department of Education, Scott Cook, worked with a team to develop the revisions. After originally writing about the effects of fossil fuels and human construction in wildlife areas, the committee removed a majority of the passage, reducing the specifications as to what factors teachers need to discuss. Also, he describes how some natural effects of the environment even spike changes in the temperature of the Earth.

Cook expands on the difficulty of matter by saying, “The committee took a true course between the rocks on one side and the whirlpool on the other.” By these words, he means that his team struggled with their wording of the revisions because although they prefer to appeal to the legislature, they also need to present factual evidence and ensure that teachers present scientific facts to their students. Considering some of the smaller or more religious towns in Idaho, the topic of climate change poses a very controversial topic for the teachers, parents, and students.

Several people in favor of these revisions worry that if not thorough enough, some teachers will not provide students with scientific explanations of climate change and instead ignore the subject matter altogether. For those students who take an interest in the subject matter, this could prove disadvantageous.

The hearing in Boise, Idaho, lasted two days with a total of 29 people testifying in favor of the revisions. Some Republicans and other community members seem to open their minds to the new discoveries, and they even spoke about how people can learn new ideas every day, and scientific facts can point to man-made global warming and climate change.

Although the Idaho House Education Committee approved the standards, it cut a lot of the recommendations crafted by Cook and his team to teach students about renewable energy and other references to man-made effects on the climate.

(Sources: The New York Times, Boise Weekly, ThinkProgress)

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