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This State Might Require Public Schools to Teach Climate Change

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Children's books about the environment. U.S. Air Force photo / Karen Abeyasekere

Reading, writing, arithmetic ... and climate science. That doesn't have the same ring as the "three Rs" of education, but Connecticut could one day require the subject to be on the curriculum, The Associated Press reported.

A Connecticut state lawmaker is pushing a bill to mandate the teaching of climate change in public schools throughout the state, starting in elementary school.


"A lot of schools make the study of climate change an elective, and I don't believe it should be an elective," Democratic state Rep. Christine Palm told the AP. "I think it should be mandatory, and I think it should be early so there's no excuse for kids to grow up ignorant of what's at stake."

If House Bill 5011 succeeds, Connecticut could be the first state to make such a requirement by law, according to the National Center for Science Education. Last year, a similar bill was introduced in Connecticut but ultimately failed.

The proposal is not as controversial as it seems and would probably be welcomed by a lot of parents. In fact, a 2018 report from the the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, revealed that a large majority of Americans believe climate change should be taught in schools.

The bill is a welcome rebuke to at least 10 state legislatures that want to alter how climate change is addressed in state educational standards. The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, has made efforts to undermine climate science and has drawn criticism for mailing hundreds of thousands of copies of its publication "Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming" to science teachers around the country.

Connecticut is one of 20 states and Washington, DC that have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, which introduces global climate change as a core topic in middle school, the AP reported. The specifics of the curriculum and its instruction is left up to individual districts.

Some Connecticut educators wonder if Palm's bill is even necessary, since the state already adopted the Next Generation Science Standards in 2015.

"I do believe if the state has adopted standards, you're teaching those standards, you're going to be assessed on those standards," Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, told the AP. "If you're a district in Connecticut, your curriculum is addressing it already."

But Palm believes her bill has legs given the importance of the climate crisis.

"I'd love to see poetry be mandated. That's never going to happen," she told the AP. "That's not life or death."

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