LINCOLN — A former Nebraska teacher of the year voiced his support Friday for proposed science standards that include teaching public school students about climate change.
Michael Fryda, a science teacher at Westside High School and 2010 Nebraska teacher of the year, said climate change is “established scientific fact.”
He was among several educators who urged members of the Nebraska State Board of Education to adopt the standards during a meeting that drew an overflow crowd.
Critics testified, too, questioning whether manmade global warming is settled science.
“Global warming is a hoax,” said Paul Meyer, former member of the Millard School Board.
Nearly 70 people attended the meeting at the State Office Building in Lincoln — about 20 were bumped to an overflow room where they watched a livestream.
Testimony took about 90 minutes.
Board President Pat Timm told the testifiers that all their comments “will be taken very seriously.”
The state board is getting close to adopting new standards. On Thursday, the Nebraska Department of Education released a “final draft.” It represents nearly a year of work by a team of Nebraska educators.
For the first time, the standards would specifically include the teaching of climate change. However, the wording calls on students to “evaluate the reliability and validity” of climate models before making a projection of future climate trends.
That’s a change from an earlier draft, made public in May, that treated climate change as settled science.
The final draft includes evolution, which also is addressed in the current state standards as a theory.
Students would be expected to “demonstrate understanding of the factors causing natural selection and the process of evolution of species over time” and understand “how multiple lines of evidence contribute to the strength of scientific theories of natural selection and evolution.”
Meyer said he believes in “intelligent design,” a theory that living things and the universe were created by an intelligent being.
“If they want to teach evolution, that’s fine,” he said, “but also teach intelligent design. Let’s have both sides.”
Doug Kagan, representing Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, said there is a “furious ongoing debate within the scientific community about the actual role that humans play in global warming.”
David Harwood, a geology professor with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and member of the standards writing team, urged the board to retain climate change and evolution in the draft standards.
“Climate change is happening,” he said. “It is caused by human activity.”
The Rev. Penny Greer of the United Church of Christ told the board that she is comfortable with including climate change and evolution.
She said she is a scientist studying extreme precipitation and climate change.
“It is real. It is happening. And our students need to know about it,” she said.
She said only a small percentage of scientists take issue with the conclusion that human activity is causing a surge in global temperatures.
Critics of the standards also contended that they would emphasize science processes over content knowledge.
Mary Jane Truemper described the draft standards as “ephemeral” and “a little bit squishier” than she would like.
She expressed concern the standards would produce young people with opinions but who lack knowledge.
Amy Mancini, an administrator from the Grand Island Public Schools, said the current standards, adopted in 2010, are not rigorous enough and emphasize rote knowledge.
The draft standards reflect the way real scientists work, she said.
“These put students in the driver’s seat,” she said.
Three state board members who serve on its teaching and learning committee voted Thursday to recommend approval to the full board when they meet next month.