Some good news from West Virginia:
After widespread criticism from teachers, professors and others, the West Virginia Board of Education voted Wednesday to withdraw a set of science education standards containing controversial modifications to the teaching of climate change.
The new version, which will be open for a 30-day public comment period, doesn’t contain the alterations to the three standards on climate change the board earlier approved.
Clayton Burch, executive director of the state’s Office of Early Learning and interim associate state superintendent, said the version will be up for a board vote in March. The standards will go into effect for the 2016-17 school year.
After previously defending the changes as a way to foster student debate and critical thinking on the topic, the Department of Education recommended at Wednesday’s meeting going back on the alterations.
The move comes after the school board and the department caught national attention and considerable criticism from residents and academics about the changes, which were made to new K-12 science teaching requirements based off the National Next Generation Science Standards blueprint. If passed, the standards will be the first time Mountain State students will be required, in non-elective courses, to learn about evidence for human-driven climate change.
At the request of school board member Wade Linger, who has said he doesn’t believe human-influenced climate change is a “foregone conclusion,” the teaching requirements concerning climate change were altered before the board placed them in a public comment period in October and voted to adopt them last month.
The changes, for example, would have added “and fall,” after “rise,” to a proposed standard requiring that sixth-graders “ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.”
Only Linger and fellow board member Tom Campbell, who had brought up coal funding for the state’s education system when he was previously interviewed by the Gazette, voted no on Wednesday’s action.
Campbell told the Gazette he felt his comments about coal were misinterpreted but didn’t specify how Wednesday. He said he didn’t want to get into a debate about climate change and coal. He had argued at first that the alterations weren’t major.
Long story short, they got caught trying to advance wingnuttery at the behest of the coal industry, got mocked nationwide, and are backing down. This little tidbit is just fascinating:
Last week, school board President Gayle Manchin — who said she trusted the Department of Education staff’s earlier assertion that the standards changes were sound — said the board would discuss the changes this week in response to the concerns raised. Manchin was the only member besides Linger who told the Gazette she knew about the changes before adopting them.
Gayle Manchin is the wife of Senator Joe Manchin, who, you might know, is an ardent supporter of the coal industry whose term as Senator has been basically dedicated to protecting an already dead industry, so I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the woman married to a man with millions invested in coal who has spent his first term doing everything he can to block the EPA was one of only two people to know that anti-science and pro-coal changes were being slipped into the state’s education standards. Weirder things have happened, you know.
If Joe really wanted to help coal miners, what he would be doing is using everything in his power to steer new businesses and new education programs into the state, because despite Coal’s black knight routine, it really is dead and dying, it just doesn’t know it. What is important is not trying to save the few jobs that are withering away as we speak, but to find new jobs and ways for the people of West Virginia to earn a living.