January 2018 Church & State | AU Bulletin

Facing pushback from the public, New Mexico’s Public Education Department has decided not to implement new science standards that critics said weakened the study of evolution.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) had expressed concern over the standards, which are ostensibly based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS has been adopted in 18 states as well as Wash­ington, D.C.; but in New Mexico, state education officials made a number of changes to the NGSS, cutting a reference to evolution outright and downplaying other provisions based on sound science.

State residents organized strong opposition to the pro­posed standards. In an Oct. 3 letter, the New Mexico Science Teachers’ Association expressed opposition and said the state’s curriculum should adopt NGSS without alterations. Responding favorably to the pro-evolution activism around the state, New Mexico’s Public Education Department agreed to implement the unaltered NGSS.

The decision was praised by sound science-education advocates, including the NCSE, which emphasized that the activism of New Mexicans played an important factor.

“New Mexico abounds in people who are concerned about science education, whether because they’re science educators themselves, scientists, environmentalists, busi­ness­people, faith leaders or freethinkers, parents, or all of the above,” Glenn Branch, deputy director of NCSE, wrote in a Nov. 27 NCSE blog post. “And lots of them, when they saw coverage of what was proposed for their state’s science standards, decided to take action.”