Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Core Concerns

Local newspaper articles have recently covered concerns about the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Common Core is one of the most well-publicized educational strategies in the last fifty years. There is much misunderstanding concerning Common Core. 

Lively debate exists over the issue of Core Curriculum standards in pubic school education. Common Core is a state, not a federal initiative. The initiative has received much publicity. Each state is responsible for their own adherence to Common Core standards. An offshoot of Common Core is a set of goals for science education. This initiative is known as “Next Generation Science Standards” (NGSS). Science standards have not been finalized in most states. Citizens interested in science/faith issues may be well advised to apprise themselves of these developments in their local public school science education. Most people favor local control of education.

Among many issues in both pubic and private education, we must be concerned about science topics taught in the classroom and how they are taught. Two science curricular issues relate to many past post topics in our Science @ The John Ankerberg Show blog. The topics are evolution and climate change. Most curricular materials teach evolution. It is, therefore, surprising that many discussions of this topic indicate the issue is far from settled even in public schools. Evolution gained a deeply-rooted foothold in public science education beginning in the 1960s to the consternation of roughly one-half of our population. Evolution has been a topic of disagreement between those who advocate a biblical outlook on origins and those who favor a secular interpretation. 

In teaching many science topics, personal theistic beliefs do not impact how teachers instruct their students. This is especially true with respect to physical science. For example, when learning about the behavior of water or its chemical composition, there is little disagreement.

Other science topics offer more complexity. Today’s biology education has transitioned from organismal to molecular biology. Genetic commonality and continuity are supported by the belief in the common ancestry of all living things.  However, there are alternate valid explanations for commonality and continuity in the study of human genetics. One is the idea that the Creator used common genetic templates to account for resemblances among species. This possibility is never addressed in public schools. “Equal time” for evolutionary and creationist interpretations would enable students to retain their personal critical thinking but public schools do not offer this solution to the problem.

We link only one snippet of our previous blog treatment of this topic:

Another highly controversial topic is “climate change” formerly known as “global warming.” Climate change advocates have assigned the cause of earth’s gradual warming to modern humans’ fossil fuel burning emissions. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is at fault, we are told. To some degree this is true, but climate change has become dangerously oversimplified. We do not wish to minimize genuine, environmental hazards. The topic is often tinged by personal agendas. Our children are manipulated to accept agenda-driven teachings. This link is only one of many posts on the climate issue from 2012:

As a career science educator I observed many “reform” movements during my 40-year tenure. President Johnson’s ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) of 1965 was an early federal initiative. The current movement toward Common Core has a common ancestry. Numerous state and federal acts have preceded it. Common Core is a state-led response to the ongoing deficiencies in education of our young people. Race to the Top, however, is a recent federally sponsored educational incentive with some linkage to districts’ adherence to Common Core. Current Race to the Top funding is now in doubt. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is faltering. We pray that the frequent mistakes of the past will not repeat.

Lurking beyond education “initiatives” is the question, “What is the correct interpretation of scientific data?” and “What is the truth?” Do we reinforce the quest for correct interpretation and truth in our classrooms? If these quests are unfulfilled, we betray our calling as educators, parents, and all responsible citizens who oversee and fund our educational policies. Warranted concern and input over the teaching of evolution and climate change is the responsibility of Christian parents and citizens who support public education with their tax revenue. Following is a link to a more in-depth discussion from our blog commentary in 2012: