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What Should We Tell the Kids About Climate Change?

States flip-flop over new teaching guidelines on global warming.
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In Wyoming last year and in South Carolina in 2012, legislators banned public schools from implementing national teaching standards that treat human-caused global warming as settled science. A similar measure passed the Oklahoma Senate last year but failed in the state’s House of Representatives. Conservatives in Kentucky also tried to bring legislation, but it didn’t go very far. Michigan’s state board of education is bracing for a debate on new standards later this year. “You’re seeing science standards held hostage to political machinations,” says Lisa Hoyos, a former union organizer who two years ago co-founded Climate Parents, a national group that defends classroom teaching about the topic.

The fight began in 2013, when the Next Generation Science Standards were released by the National Research Council, part of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Sciences, and Achieve, the nonprofit that helped develop the national Common Core curriculum, an initiative strongly backed by the Obama administration. The standards, written with input from educators in 26 states, recommend that students study “the rise in global temperatures over the past century” and “the major role that human activities play.”