For Katherine Bueler, teaching science starts with the age of the planet.

Scientists have proved Earth is about 4.6 billion years old, she tells her class of eighth-graders at El Camino Real Academy in Santa Fe. And from that point, she embarks on a sprawling, hourlong lesson with stops on evolution, early life forms, what it would be like to connect with potential life on other planets, the concept of gravity and who we are as a people today.

But if New Mexico’s proposed new standards for teaching science go into effect during the 2018-19 school year, there will be no mention of Earth’s age — and, some critics fear, perhaps no spirited discussion like the one Bueler has with her students. Gone from the new standards, too, are the basic concepts of evolution and humans’ impact on climate change.

“This is really unfortunate,” said David Evans, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, an organization that came up with a set of new science teaching measures known as the Next Generation Science Standards, already adopted by 18 states. New Mexico chose not to use those standards this year, but it employed them as a framework to create its own system.

Evans doesn’t like how New Mexico has altered those standards. “There is a real danger in replacing science with politics in the classroom,” he said. “We need to be cognizant of the fact that we have an impact on the world that we live in.”

Click here to read the full story in the Santa Fe New Mexican (Sept. 24, 2017)

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