After hundreds of scientists, educators and legislators protested the removal of basic science facts from New Mexico's science education standards, the Public Education Secretary has announced that they will be included once more.
Earlier this month, the news broke that New Mexico's science education standards had eliminated references to climate change, the age of the Earth and evolution. There was immediately public outcry from the scientific community.
"These changes are evidently intended to placate creationists and climate change deniers," said Glenn Branch, the deputy director of the National Center for Science Education.
Still, Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski defended the new standards, arguing that their revisions let students form opinions of their own. Nevermind the fact that science is not based on opinion.
On Sunday night, Ruszkowski wrote in a public letter that the new standards allow "flexibility and local control around science materials, curriculum and content."
But on Monday, at a packed public hearing in Santa Fe, the criticism for the proposed changes was overwhelming.
Concerned members of the community took turns lambasting the revised standards, insisting that they will ultimately disadvantage students who wish to pursue a career in genetics, medicine or environmental science by denying them a comprehensive and evidence-based science education.
"Students trained to these standards may not be ready to keep up with their peers from states following more rigorous standards," said William Pockman, a professor and chairman of the biology department at the University of New Mexico.
Melissa DeLaerentis, the coordinator of a math and science learning center for Las Cruces Public Schools, had similar sentiments.
"I am appalled that the state of New Mexico would choose to disregard research-based standards in place of politically motivated and scientifically inaccurate information," said DeLaerentis.
"By excluding scientific facts, educators would be asked to purposefully obstruct preparation for college, careers."
Protesters even went so far as to take out a full-page advertisement in Santa Fe's local newspaper, The New Mexican. The ad, which was backed by 61 concerned scientist and engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, read, "These proposed standards fall far short of what is needed to foster scienti‑cally literate students."
Ruszkowski was conspicuously missing from the public hearing, but that does not meant the complaints went unheard.
On Tuesday night, Ruszkowski announced that the final standards will restore references to evolution, climate change and the 4.6 billion-year age of the Earth.
"We have listened to the thoughtful input received and will incorporate many of the suggestions into the New Mexico Standards," he said.
Santa Fe school board member Steven Carrillo, who previously led a "teach-in" protest of science lessons at the education department's headquarters on Friday, said, "This is a very positive development. It definitely shows that they are putting kids and science education first. I hope that this begins a trend in trusting science and teaching professionals to guide education."
A spokesperson for the department said more details about the proposed standards would be released Wednesday.