John & Shari: Does WA’s new climate curriculum dismiss ‘rational thinking’?

May 31, 2023, 1:33 PM | Updated: Jun 1, 2023, 3:50 pm

WA's climate curriculum...

Should emotion be brought into science class? (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The 2011 Washington state science Teacher of the Year says “she had to pick her jaw off the floor” when she saw the new approach to science in the Washington state curriculum.

“For too long, science and science education have prioritized … rational thinking,” the National Review, a conservative editorial magazine, alleges that the new curriculum said.

“If we don’t have rational thinking and science, what are we left with?” said Vanessa Ramsey (who now teaches in Montana) to John Curley and Shari Elliker. “I noticed something at the end of the curriculum; it was repeated several times in the final module; they repeated several times, science is not enough, science is not enough. Well, what else do we need here? They’re implying we need to bring emotion into this.”

‘Pay attention to our own emotions’

John Curley responded by saying, “Where we say planets go around the sun, we’re gonna put you in house arrest Galileo. We’re gonna tie a rock around your neck and throw you in the ocean. So you drown because you’re saying things that just go beyond what people feel about something. I mean, this is very, very similar to that thinking, that emotion, or you can use faith.”

The curriculum is the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and it was created by 26 states along with the National Teacher’s Association to create a science curriculum for the future of climate science learning standards.

The implementation of the curriculum comes from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in a program called “ClimeTime” which works to “support anti-racism efforts” in the science classroom.

“Teaching climate science in schools can be valuable, but not when it’s blatantly oriented toward ‘social justice’ and views rationality as an obstacle to proper learning,” the National Review’s Todd Myers wrote. “Instead of prioritizing rational thinking, the purportedly scientific curriculum argues that ‘we must learn to pay attention to our own emotions and those of other people.’

This is an issue to Ramsey who said that the curriculum is indoctrinating students into the mindset of political activism.

“Having gone through the entire curriculum, I spent months combing through it,” Ramsey said. “If they are guiding students, this is the ultimate end in the final module they want students to be political activists within the realm of what they call ‘environmental justice’ or ‘climate justice.’ They have activities that they want students to do to get involved with certain social groups, in certain activist groups. That seems to be the final goal of this whole curriculum.

“There are pretty blatant science and anti-science attitudes that came across in this curriculum,” Ramsey continued. “And I think the thing that bothered me the most was really a manipulative way of guiding students towards political activism, specifically within the realm of environmental justice is the term they use.”

Curley recalled being in science class, you have a hypothesis, the scientist has a hypothesis, and then you test it with an objective eye, and you keep running the numbers to gather the data to prove or disprove your hypothesis.

“And then you say, ‘Oh, Eureka! Then you jump out of the bathtub and you run naked through the streets. Just remember that from sixth-grade science, there is no emotion involved,” Curley said.

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Open mind or heartstrings?

“So instead of having students just look at the data with an open mind, they really pull on students’ heartstrings with some social narratives that they have woven throughout the various modules,” Ramsey explained. “Yeah, which is leading students to these predetermined conclusions within these parameters of social or environmental justice.”

Shari Elliker was more direct: “Is there a place for emotion in science?”

“Science needs to be an objective method of learning about our physical world,” Ramsey said. “And I really think we need to remember that and just keep applying that objectivity and teaching that to our students. So I would say during scientific research, we need to remain impartial. We need to set aside a motion and just examine the data. When we can take the data and the conclusions and then go ahead and bring that into the realm of social issues.”

Editor’s Note: MyNorthwest has called the Washington state Superintendent of Public Education’s office and have yet to hear back. We will include those comments when we get them.

Listen to John Curley and Shari Elliker weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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John & Shari: Does WA’s new climate curriculum dismiss ‘rational thinking’?