This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
No less an authority than the Utah State Board of Education thinks it has figured it out: Climate change is not something sixth-graders should be told about, but eighth-graders are ready for it.
To call that silly is letting the board off the hook. It's deception, and we shouldn't stand for it. Instead, Utah teachers should ignore the board. Let them come after you, teachers. It's not a law. It's just a policy. If they try to fire you, call a news conference. They are acting for a misguided but vocal minority in this state, and the majority will stand with you. Your bosses will have to cave.
This is really about coping with change. The irony of Utah's needless delays over science standards is that the picture of climate change and its human contribution is only sharpening. This pathetic attempt at holding back from our students will not stand long, if it ever takes hold at all.
It helps to know just how much we're already asking of sixth-graders. Under the new science standards, teachers will be expected to instruct them on such things as using "computational thinking to analyze data and determine the scale and properties of the solar system." They also will "construct an argument supported by evidence that changes to an ecosystem affect the stability of populations."
Sixth-graders even learn about how human reproduction works in a special maturation class. They can handle that, but they can't handle climate change?
As modified by the state board, the proposed standards now call on sixth-grade teachers to "construct an explanation supported by evidence for how the natural greenhouse effect maintains Earth's energy balance and a relatively constant temperature. Emphasize how the natural greenhouse effect is necessary for maintaining life on Earth."
Then, this is what those students will be taught in eighth grade:
"Analyze and interpret data on the factors that change global temperatures and their effects on regional climates. Examples of factors could include agricultural activity, changes in solar radiation, fossil fuel use, and volcanic activity."
In other words, between sixth and eighth grade, they are supposed to think the greenhouse effect is just a good thing. After that, they will know it's not. That can only be described as misleading our young people, and for no perceptible reason.
Don't go along, Utah teachers. Instead, prepare your lessons with at least some mention of the rising global temperature and its human contribution. Your sixth-graders can handle it. The more teachers ignore this unjustifiable requirement, the less chance that any one will be singled out for only doing what all are required to do: make their sixth-graders a little smarter.
In this case, smarter than the State Board of Education.