If you've ever argued with a climate-change denier, you've likely found that there seems to be literally no evidence (empirical or otherwise) that will change their minds. But in Wyoming, denialists aren't just refusing to listen. They're trying to make it so that their children never will, either.
Wyoming has announced it will prevent the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a brand-new scientific cirriculum designed to bring American kids up to speed on the scientific process and the latest developments. In a recent budget proposal, state legislator Matt Teeters (R) introduced the following amendment:
… neither the state board of education nor the department shall expend any amount appropriated under this section for any review or revision of the student content and performance standards for science. This footnote is effective immediately.
Why, exactly, has Wyoming taken this step? As with similar situations in Kentucky, where the governor overrode the legislature to implement NGSS, and Kansas, where legislators sued the state to prevent NGSS adoption as a matter of religious "freedom," this move has everything to do with brewing anti-science sentiment in the modern Republican Party. According to Lisa Hoyos, president of Climate Parents, "The main reason they’re opposing NGSS is because of climate change. It's the only issue they raised. These are like bread-and-butter science standards. It's about engineering, it's about geology, core content our kids need to be getting."
Rep. Teeters more or less agrees that climate change is behind his opposition to NGSS. He was recently quoted as claiming NGSS "[handles] global warming as settled science. There's all kind of social implications involved in that that I don't think would be good for Wyoming," such as his impression that it would "wreck Wyoming's economy." And the chair of the State Board of Education says that they voted to "revise the standards to present climate change as a theory, instead of a fact, and to present the benefits mineral extraction has brought Wyoming."
This is a clear-cut case of the GOP undermining scientific education to avoid challenging its own preconceptions — and to interfere in the state's educational standards to protect Wyoming's hugely influential coal, oil, and gas industries against criticism. It's a pointless and self-destructive act, because as Slate's Phil Plait writes, "The planet is heating up, and it will continue to do so whether or not we sign bills into law that force us to stick our heads in the sand." And worst for the rest of us, Wyoming's GOP seems to want to create another generation of climate change denialists by perverting their scientific education from a young age.
As we enter a century that poses innumerable scientific and technological challenges, the last thing we should be doing it shooting ourselves in the foot.