Word count and context

An examination of the Next Generation Science Standards by word count and context regarding claims of excessive focus on climate change.

Robert Bevins, PhD (Kentuckians for Science Education)

Corrections:

Mr. Cothran has pointed out that he used a different document in his word search. Rather than the NGSS document, he used the Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS). This is a fair point, but it is unlikely to alter my final conclusion. Since the KCAS contain the NGSS, the pages copied and pasted into their proper places, except for the introductions to each set of grade levels, the content and context is largely unchanged.

Further, as these are standards and not curriculum, any argument that vocabulary words are missing is misleading. There are different philosophies on writing standards. In one, every single detail is spelled out, leaving teachers and school boards, and in Kentucky, site based councils, very little flexibility in writing local curricula or lesson plans. In another, goals for student learning are expressed, and it is not possible for a student to reach the goal without learning and understanding the vocabulary and formulas that are “left out.” The destination is the same and there are shared features, but educators have the ability to shape the curriculum to the needs and requirements of their students, the classroom resources available, and any local or regional resources that may be unique.

To quote his response

He also asserted that my word count involved terms related to climate change and that, in fact, the terms I found in my word search were related to climate science in general, but not climate change in particular. What I in fact said was that these were terms related to climate science.

Again, Bevins misrepresents what I said. Here is what I said: “If we had only Kentucky’s science standards to go by, we would have to conclude that climate and weather issues are more important than gravity, photosynthesis, electricity, genetics, radiation and quantum mechanics.” [Emphasis added] I then said, very specifically, exactly which terms I was counting: “…the terms “climate,” “weather” and “global warming” are together mentioned over 130 times.”

His claim goes awry from the start. “Related to climate science” is imprecise language. Air could be said to be related to veterinary science as the animals involved tend to breath air. Direct reference to a concept should be our guideline, not the potential that somebody could draw a weak relation between any one of the possible definitions of one term and another.

It is misleading to claim that “weather” is a term that is always used to refer to climate science. This would be an imprecise use of language. Weather often refers to nothing more than weather as a short term phenomenon.

Similarly, climate is itself is not always a reference to climate science. I’m sure that statement will make Cothran’s head spin, but when climate is used to describe weather over a suitably long period of time, it does not necessarily refer to climate science. Climate science starts, in my opinion, after one studies why a particular climate exists and how it has or can change. Otherwise, a mere description of what cancer is becomes oncology.

Global warming is “related to” and refers to climate science. The looseness of terminology and use of language used by Cothran in making his claims allows him to say that overly broad definitions make him right, while a careful use of language allows individuals to communicate and discuss issues without ambiguity.

Context is important in making these distinctions. Unless context is examined, a word count is insufficient evidence to make a claim regarding actual content. If Cothran’s argument relies on weak evidence, the argument itself can be no stronger than this weakest link. I find it difficult to believe that Cothran was not and is not aware that these terms are overly broad, and the resulting overestimation of the importance of climate science (or climate change) to the standards was his intent. However, as I cannot be certain, I concede that is possible that where I was looking for scientific meaning, Cothran, not being a scientist, is not used to the precise use of language required for discussing scientific topics.

In fact, this is the problem we come up against when a person refers to evolution as “just a theory.” This is sloppy use of language. A theory could mean “hunch,” but in science, it refers to an explanation of an observed phenomenon with broad and significant supporting evidence and no disconfirming evidence. A theory in science is the most exciting and important thing you can discuss.

I did say, prior to those specific claims, that there was “an avalanche of terms related to climate change.” I said that because my assumption was that the reason for having all of those climate and weather related terms in the standards was because of the recent interest in climate change. In other words, the prevalence of climate science terminology was my evidence for an emphasis on climate change in the standards.

Now I suppose someone could argue with my assumption that the reason for the inclusion of all the climate science emphasis in the standards is not due to the interest in climate change (and Bevins tries to do this), but that would be rather hard to believe. It would also not square with the responses by standards supporters to my argument, which was not that I was wrong about the emphasis on climate change, but rather that the standards were, in fact, correct in emphasizing it (through an emphasis on climate science). Just see the two responses that appeared to my article in the Herald Leader two weeks later.

Cothran makes two assumptions. One is that all of the uses of these words are in reference to climate science. They can be, but are not always. The second is the one that he is aware of and admits to making.

Cothran seems to think that my point is that there is no interest in climate science. This couldn’t be further from the truth. My point is that it climate science  is not over-emphasized, but receives just enough emphasis. Cothran makes it sound as though other concepts are excluded or de-emphasized because they did not show up in his cursory examination.

Climate science is an overarching concept within the KCAS/NGSS because multiple fields of study contribute to it. A discussion of climate science requires understanding of the sun, the atmosphere, the heat storage capacity of CO2, methane and water, the carbon cycle, the water cycle, the various climate types found on the earth, and an understanding of how to approach some of the engineering required to deal with potential issues raised by climate science. The standards were developed to tie different parts of science together, which is an important lesson to learn about science, as well as an effective technique for teaching complex subject matter. There are few other topics as suited as climate science for students to study with the purpose of synthesizing and evaluating this knowledge.

A word search of the KACS for terms related to genetics, “gene,” “trait,” and “inherit” turns up 447 instances of these three words! I picked these words because they are related to genetics, or at least one definition is, but they may have multiple definitions and may turn up in other words.

Using Cothran’s methodology, I have shown that genetics is stressed at an extreme level, which is good for those of us that can teach genetics. However, “gene” isn’t constrained to be the word “gene”, or even just part of the word “genetic,” but it also shows up in generation. Generations are very important to any discussion of the inheritance (one of my words shows up there) of traits (another word I picked). The problem is that it is also part of generate, and students are constantly asked to generate models in the KCAS/NGSS.

The truth of the matter is that genetics is required to discuss the multiple sections on the inheritance of traits in the life science category.

Let’s try gravity. My three search terms are “gravit” (this will catch gravity and gravitate, as well as gravitation), “orbit,” and “attract.” All of these are words that are related to gravity, and my search finds 78 uses of them. Not very useful information, but it is a data point. Reading the physical science and earth and space categories, it should again be clear that gravity will be something students will have to have a decent understanding of, if they are do describe how planets orbit stars or the motion of galaxies, both of which are goals of the KCAS/NGSS.

Photosynthesis is implicit in much of the life science section, but would be part of the physical science section as well. Electricity would be discussed in physical science, especially in sections on energy, but there would be some discussion of it in the life science category. Radiation fits into the energy and matter sections of all three of these categories.  As for quantum mechanics, this is a very advanced field of study. For the most part, it belongs in AP courses that supplement the KCAS/NGSS. I only wish that most graduating students would be conversant in quantum mechanics, but few college graduates have that level of skill, not because colleges are not doing their jobs, but because it is a topic mostly addressed in upper level physics and engineering classes. In fact, I haven’t even touched on the engineering category of the standards.

In order to fully correct this post, I will perform the same analysis that I did on the NGSS for the KCAS. The methods will largely stay the same, but I will add an additional criterion. Any use of “weather,” “climate,” or “global warming” that is struck through (like this) will be counted as not being a reference to human caused climate change. The reasoning should be obvious, as this is material that is being removed and replaced by the NGSS. I will also develop a classification rubric for references to climate science that excludes references that are not clearly pointing to climate science/climatology, and ask for colleagues to refine it so that it is rigorous enough.

Alterations are denoted by the use of green text.

Introduction

It should be immediately obvious that a word search is not serious research on a topic, especially when climate has multiple meanings that can relate to education. Following are the dictionary ones of climate as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary

1 : a region of the earth having specified climatic conditions
2 a : the average course or condition of the weather at a place usually over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity, and precipitation
b : the prevailing set of conditions (as of temperature and humidity) indoors (a climate-controlled office)
3 : the prevailing influence or environmental conditions characterizing a group or period : atmosphere (a climate of fear)

1 and 2a are clearly useful in a scientific sense, and 2b could be used in an engineering lesson. 3 could be used in reference to the “classroom climate” meaning

Classroom climate refers to the prevailing mood, attitudes, standards, and tone that you and your students feel when they are in your classroom.  A negative classroom climate can feel hostile, chaotic, and out of control. A positive classroom climate feels safe, respectful, welcoming, and supportive of student learning.

As there are a variety of ways that climate can be used, it should be obvious that the context in which climate is used should be important.

Weather and climate may occur in sections discussing anthropogenic (human caused) climate change, but may also be found as parts of discussions of daily weather, how to read weather maps, regional climate (i.e. desert, rain forest) or historical changes in climate.

In this analysis, I examine the context of the occurrence of each instance of weather, climate and global warming within the DCI Arrangements of the Next Generation Science Standards, which are functionally identical to the proposed additions to the Kentucky core academic standards, excepting a division of middle school material into specific grades, to determine if each use of these words is or is not a clear reference to human influenced climate change, as has been suggested by Mr. Martin Cothran of the Kentucky Family Foundation on multiple occasions, both in newsprint and on his personal weblog.

It has come to my attention that Mr. Cothran’s analysis uses the Kentucky Core Academic Standards (KCAS), which includes the entire Kentucky educational standards for every subject. The KCAS science standards sections includes the previous science standards (which have been struck through, denoting that they are no longer applicable) and nearly the entire NGSS. The only parts of the NGSS that I have found missing from the KCAS, upon initial examination, are introductions to the Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle and High School years. All other material in the DCI document, linked to above, appear to be present.

Once I have completed a full analysis, using updated methods to classify struck through material, of the KCAS, I will post an updated version of this paper. 

Methods

Using the PDF of the DCI Arrangements of the Next Generation Science Standards document, an advanced search for the words “weather,” “climate,” and “global warming” was performed. Each instance of these words was copied into a separate document for coding.

Coding rules: Based on context, score words clearly referring to anthropogenic climate change as related (ACC +), not clearly referring to anthropogenic climate change as not related. This conservative binary system was selected for ease of coding and speed. Section headings were rated as not related unless the heading specifically mentioned anthropogenic climate change in some way. Where a standard specifies that climate change is not a topic for assessment, it was ruled as not being a related (double negative). This method prevents an overestimate of the focus on anthropogenic climate change, but as a strict, conservative system, may be biased towards an underestimate.

Results

Weather Climate Global warming
Total ACC + Total ACC + Total ACC +
K-5 31 0 9 0 0 0
MS 25 0 20 4 0 0
HS 11 2 27 18 1 1
Total 67 2 56 22 1 1

Table 1: Total and Anthropogenic Climate Change related (ACC+) uses of specified words within the DCI Arrangements of the Next Generation Science Standards document.

Running cumulative totals are listed after relevant quotes from each section are presented in the Appendix, with total counts for K-5, MS, and HS listed after each grouping of grades is completed.

Conclusion

Word counts are inherently unsuited for examining any document unless context is also considered. Mr Cothran’s initial analysis of the NGSS material included in the KCAS document vastly overestimates the importance of anthropogenic climate change in the NGSS document, especially in elementary and middle school grades. In fact, no clear reference to human caused climate change exists within the NGSS sections applicable to the elementary years, and out of the 45 uses of “weather” and “climate” found within the middle school section, no uses of “weather” and only four uses of “climate” are used in the context of anthropogenic climate change.

As my study used the original NGSS document instead of the KCAS document used by Cothran, the reader must extrapolate the results of this analysis to the KCAS document, which reproduces, unaltered, most of the NGSS. An examination of the KCAS will be performed and made available in order to determine if a change in the document where the same material is found will alter the result. 

Anthropogenic climate change is stressed in high school, making up two of eleven instances of “weather,” eighteen out of twenty-seven uses of climate are clear references to anthropogenic climate change. The high school section is the only one that includes any use of the phrase “climate change.”

The presence of the word “weathering,” a term used to describe erosion, including chemical and mechanical processes, which has “weather” as a root word, were found by the advanced search and further decrease the value of the original search. This should highlight the weakness of word counts for any in depth analysis. The inclusion of the word “weather” is almost entirely unnecessary to the analysis, and only serves to inflate an already unreliable estimate.

Only twenty-five uses of “climate,” “weather,” and “climate change” were found to refer to anthropogenic climate change out of a total of 124 uses of these words, as found by the word count portion of an advanced search. This means that 99 uses, approximately 80% of those noted by Mr. Cothran, are not related. It is my conclusion that his claim that the NGSS, and therefore the KCAS, contains an excessive focus on human effects on Earth’s climate is false based on faulty methods, and that his analysis should be discounted. It is much more accurate to note that of the seventy-six items listed on the document’s  NGSS table of contents, only five include any relevant discussion of human caused climate change, with one found in the middle school material and four found in the high school material.

(all items are reproduced below the fold in the Appendix)

Continue reading

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Remarks to AARS subcommittee on Next Generation Science Standards. Sept 11, 2013

(Apologies for taking so long getting this up)

My name is Robert Bevins, president of Kentuckians for Science Education. I have a PhD in Toxicology from the University of Kentucky, and have taught college biology at Georgetown College.

As an educator, I taught introductory biology courses for both majors and non majors, as well as some advanced courses. Because of this, I see the fresh graduates of Kentucky’s school systems.

My experience has been that most students have had the joy of learning science beaten out of them. Too many lists of vocabulary words and too little hands on practice. Too much rote memorization of surface facts, too little deep examination of topics for understanding.

Far too many students are simply unprepared for college, and professors spend valuable class time (a semester might consist of forty five hours of lecture time) bringing students up to speed. Students need remedial work in non-remedial courses. The education system is not producing as many scientifically literate students as it should be.

As my former students have gone on to careers in medicine and science, many of them have come back and told me that they now realize how unprepared they were when they first came to college. They were at a disadvantage, and while they fought and won the uphill battle, many realize that they simply have to do too much catch up work.

One thing they talk about is that many of them had never heard anything about evolution in public school, and nearly nothing about climate change. They are disappointed that they were not even exposed to two major topics covered in every biology department of every college or university with a decent reputation. Even the small religious schools of any note though many keep quiet about this, so as not to draw fire from donors.

The Next Generation Science Standards are designed to fix this problem. Because the standards are open and flexible, they are likely to be more successful than stricter standards made up of lists of vocabulary and formulas. Being able to use and apply a formula that you are unfamiliar with is more valuable now than quick recall of the formula without understanding what it includes.

This change in teaching practices is at the root of the Fordham Institute’s criticism of the NGSS. The Institute prefers shallow examination of many content areas, focusing on vocabulary and memorization of facts, while the NGSS is designed to go deeper into fewer areas, giving students tools to understand any concept in any field they are exposed to.

The writing of the NGSS was performed with the input of many education experts and scientists, and as I am sure you are aware, when people with strong opinions have to come to a position that is satisfactory to most, some people will not be happy. Fordham is not happy, but most educators are.

Other individuals are unhappy with the importance given to climate change and evolution. After reading through the entire NGSS document, it became clear that claims of 130 mentions of weather, climate and global warming were greatly inaccurate. I would like to give copies of my study on this issue to the subcommittee after my remarks, and will make the study available on our blog later today.

Using the advanced search feature of adobe acrobat, I found 125 uses of these words. Of these, only twenty six actually refer to human caused global warming. In fact, there was only a single use of the phrase “global warming.” Eleven mentions of weathering were made, meaning erosion, which is only tangentially related to climate change.

The others refer to weather, with kindergarten and elementary school students learning how to read a weather map and what to do if there is a tornado. A fair number of mentions of climate are focused on discussions of deserts, or what features make up climate.

No mention of climate change is made in the elementary years, except to say that it isn’t a topic that would be assessed. Only five sections, four of which are found in high school, one in middle school, out of the seventy six items on the table of contents actually deal with human caused climate change.

Those items dealt with, I urge you to consider Kentucky’s reputation.

Kentucky is viewed as a developing nation within the United States. We are considered an ignorant backwater. Of course, we know that this isn’t true, but that is what outsiders believe.

If Kentucky votes down the NGSS, this will be a major embarrassment. No body politic has voted against the NGSS so far. If Kentucky is the first, know that we will be a laughing stock. We will be a Flintstones state. We need to improve our reputation.

Kentucky should be known as the place where some of the more complex issues of genetics were discovered, not a place that rejects modern science out of personal preference.

Kentucky students will not be taken seriously when applying for college out of state. Our graduates will be mocked when they look for jobs out of state, asked if this is the first time they have worn shoes. Our state will not recruit high paying industry or technology jobs. Our economy will suffer as our education system falls further behind.

The NGSS won’t fix everything. Proper funding, supplies and up to date textbooks are needed for schools. Competetive salaries for teachers. A scientifically literate and curious society. This is one step, but it is a vital one.

Thank you.

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NGSS moves forward in Kentucky

Today, the KY Board of Education released a summary of comments and a response that no changes will be made to the NGSS. This basically means they feel the NGSS are ready for KY to adopt them as the KY Core Academic Standards for Science. This bit of good news came out a few days before I expected to see it, making it even more exciting. Just over two weeks ago (July 23rd), the KY Board of Education held a hearing to accept public commentary regarding the incorporation of the Next Generation Science Standards into Kentucky’s education standards. In fact, the Board was accepting written commentary through the entire month. I’m quite impressed they were able to produce their Statement of Consideration (a summary of the commentary and the Board’s response to it) so quickly after the close of the commentary period, and that it is so thorough in its response to all the arguments offered regarding the NGSS.

The NGSS include two items that are controversial on a political level, but not among scientists. Those two things, easily guessed, are climate change and evolution.

The objections against the inclusion of these subjects in public education were ones with which many of us are already very familiar. Fact vs theory. Arguments based on quotes from respected scientists taken out of context. Claims made by pseudoscientists offered as legitimate evidence. The board listened to both sides and determined that both evidence and legal precedent were on the side of moving the standards forward.

Thanks to the hard work of educators, scientists, religious leaders and concerned citizens, a flood of misinformation was met calmly with facts, evidence, and the simple declaration that not all Kentuckians are threatened by science.

I’m proud to say that Kentuckians for Science Education was at the forefront of this discussion. We helped alert colleges and universities, public and private, religious and secular, to this debate. We asked teachers and parents to ask the board to do the right thing. We contacted faith communities that see no conflict between science and religion, or prefer that the government not attempt to teach religion in the school system. We encouraged both working scientists and people working in scientific fields to explain the importance of a good science education, stressing the need for students to understand the central concept in biology, and that our actions as a species seven billion strong can have global consequences. Leaders from industry told the board that they not only wanted a better educated, more scientifically literate workforce, but that they needed it.

This is one victory. There will be more long meetings and letter writing campaigns. Political theater will be played. Groups opposed to students learning quality science are already planning out the next several years, discussing lawsuits, legislative tricks and tactics, and even attacking public education at the level of the state budget.

We will be there to remind the state government that public education is an investment. We will be there to remind the state government that it has a duty to provide students with the best education it can. We will be there to make certain that the state government is informed on scientific matters and understands the value of academic integrity as part of academic freedom.

Thank you to all who helped us reach this important day. There will be many more important days in the weeks and months ahead. With all of us working so strongly together, we can improve science education standards and support educators in the implementation of these standards. We are already forming a statewide community of those who support the teaching of evidence-based science within public schools. Well done!

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KSE in the News

MSNBC and Huffington Post both had me on to comment on controversy over the Next Generation Science Standards.

Well, really, I wouldn’t so much call it a controversy as a snippet of video that went viral on HuffPo, originally appearing at the Louisville Courier-Journal. It is kind of embarrassing bit of video, but it could have been worse. There was some really off the wall stuff said in the hearing, but scientists representing a variety of professional and educational organizations, and a grandparent representing Climate Parents held their ground very well.

You can view the entire 2 hour video here. I’ll be writing up some of the more interesting bits soon.

 

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Remarks to the Kentucky Board of Education, July 23

My name is Robert Bevins. I received my PhD in Toxicology from the University of Kentucky and am President of Kentuckians for Science Education. I am a scientist and educator, and feel that the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards will be a foundation for improving the quality of science education in Kentucky.

I want to discuss a few subjects, and while I could talk for an hour on any one of these topics, brevity is the soul of wit, and we have a five minute time limit.

But first, I want to respond to a few comments made by previous speakers. Much of the opposition was based around a a desire to return religion to the classroom. This is plainly unconstitutional. Beyond this, many religious people are fine with evolution, and avoiding teaching a topic is the privileging one religion over another.

Fascism and socialism were mentioned. Within Stalinist Russia, the study of Darwin based evolution was outlawed. Their advocates were jailed. Nazi Germany also outlawed the study of Darwin. Opposition to science is an attack on liberty, not its defense.

In the same way that theory and consensus are misunderstood, so are standards and curriculum. Standards are the floor, not the ceiling. They are not detailed and filled with vocabulary words. Curricula include republic, liberty, etc. Standards are the wrong place to look for this detail. Finally, quote mining scientist, removing the context to make it appear that they are saying something negative about evolution is a plainly dishonest tactic.

First is the issue of consensus. Within science, a consensus is formed when meaningful debate has ceased. This does not mean that there are no contrarians.

There are people in every field that claim that the dominant line of thinking is false, but for every Galileo, there are thousands with ideas that simply don’t impress other scientists. Meaningful debate has ceased on the reality of evolution and on climate change.
Perhaps, if students could become proficient enough in science to discuss real controversy, they could debate the importance of genetic drift compared to natural selection, or they could discuss the capacity of the ocean to sequester carbon dioxide.

Second, is climate science a mature field? Is the science reliable enough that we should be teaching it to Kentucky’s students?

In the 1860s John Tyndal determined that CO2, despite being a trace gas, was responsible for some of the atmosphere’s ability of retain heat. By the 1890s, Svante Arrhenius had begun calculating how changes in CO2 could affect global climate. In the 1950s, scientists found that as fossil fuel use increased over time, the amount of carbon 12 and 13 compared to carbon 14 has increased. Since fossil fuels lack carbon 14, this was humanity’s fingerprint on the atmosphere.

In 1956 Gilbert Plass published a Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change. Climate science is more than 150 years old.
By the 1960s, climate change models had been developed and have been refined and corrected for previous errors and criticisms. Have solar irradiance, cosmic rays, sunspots, volcanos, cloud formation or CFCs gone unnoticed over those 150 years? Certainly not. They have all been examined and either factored into current models, or have been dismissed as insignificant.

So called skeptics claim that there has been no global warming in the last ten years. This is not quite true, but truth isn’t their goal. While atmospheric temperatures have not risen sharply in the last decade, they have certainly not decreased. The excess heat has been absorbed by the oceans, whose temperatures have increased significantly. The global temperature is still rising. You just have to know where to stick the thermometer. We will almost certainly spike and reach a new plateau based on established patterns, with a strong el nino a likely trigger.

Third, are there examples of evolution? Absolutely, and the following is one of the most striking examples. The diverse body types of manatees, elephants, and the rabbit-like hyrax arise from one ancestral group. The fossil record links them, they share certain anatomical similarities, their embryologic development follows similar paths, and their DNA is more similar to each other than to any other mammals. This, more than anything, shows that not only can one species evolve into another that is a bit different from the previous one, if this happens multiple times, dramatic differences arise.

Including evolution and climate change at the level of state standards protects teachers from being bullied into teaching creationism or bad science. By ensuring that students will get information on these topics, without being watered down with unsupported claims, it is fair to students as well. Nobody will enforce belief, but students will need to understand material well enough to answer questions. After all, evidence is not left or right, religious or secular. It merely is. When examined without bias, it leads to conclusions that we may not like, but we must accept them and adapt.

If all this seems familiar, it should be. In 1922, Kentucky narrowly avoided having a “Monkey law” which would have outlawed the teaching of evolution, thanks to cooperation between both scientists, educators and religious people that were comfortable with science. This isn’t a new debate.

America has the technical capacity to overcome the scientific hurdles we face, and Kentuckians have the potential to be strong contributors, both on the scientific and industrial fronts.

I ask that the Board of Education and the Interim Joint Committee on Education approve of the Next Generation Science Standards so that we may reach that potential.

Thank you. These comments will be available at K Y S C I E D dot wordpress dot com.
Thank you,

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Remarks to the Kentucky Board of Education on Next Generation Science Standards

My name is Robert Bevins, and I received my PhD in Toxicology from UK, and am President of Kentuckians for Science Education

I come here to speak for the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. I am an educator, a scientist, a lifelong Kentuckian and an owner of coal and natural gas rights in East Kentucky. I represent parents and grandparents, teachers at every level of education, doctors, business owners and members of multiple faith communities who share our interest that Kentucky’s kids have the best education in science and math, and I feel that adoption of the NGSS offers that.

The standards will offer students in Kentucky an improved foundation for learning about the STEM fields, which will improve their chances for scholarships, their career options, and will have the potential to help attract high tech industries to Kentucky.

Two potential subjects that will draw public attention are evolution and climate change. These two subjects are politically controversial, but are not scientifically controversial. They are unifying concepts in science that draw on multiple fields to support a conclusion. This is precisely why they have been selected for themes within the standards. They allow vertical integration of knowledge, as students learn how different disciplines support each other, and can carry that information to their next year of information.

This makes them vital to properly teaching science, and are each backed by more than 150 years of rigorous experimentation, and stand only because no alternate theory better explain the world around us, and no evidence has been found to disproved them.

While some Kentuckians object to evolution on religious grounds, many find the two to be compatible. Religious belief should not be reason for weakening science standards. Regardless, parents still control the moral and religious education of their children.

The beauty of science is that no matter what your religious background, the same result will come from honest inquiry. In fact, if all science were forgotten tomorrow, our knowledge of the universe would eventually mirror what we know today.

There are both economic and environmental reasons that make climate science important to Kentucky’s students and their future. An understanding of climate science is important for many Kentucky industries, for example, agriculture and tourism. Invasive plant and animal species threaten our rivers and streams, while tropical diseases that will harm the horse industry move north. Our future farmers, veterinarians and outdoor sportsmen will need to understand how climate affects them.

As an owner of mineral rights, I offer one of the most important lessons that science has to offer. The evidence does not lie, and the results we get from science aren’t always the ones we want, but we should accept them as they are.

Kentucky has a strong history in science, with Thomas Hunt Morgan discovering many of the principles of modern genetics. Kentucky is also home to one of America’s first paleontological sites, Big Bone Lick.

Kentucky has the potential to be a leader in science, but only with a foundation that supports the student.

I urge the Board to adopt the NGSS as they are written, and send them on to the legislature for integration into the education system of the Commonwealth.

June 5, 2013

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Sources on evolution and climate change

If you want a quick way to check out claims regarding evolution or climate change, these two resources are very useful.

Evolution: Talk Origins

Climate Change: Skeptical Science

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