Submitted on behalf of Rep. Ken Gordon (D) Bedford

State Rep. Ken Gordon, D-Bedford, testifies alongside Bedford resident Alan MacRobert on Tuesday, July 9, during a hearing of the Joint Committee on Education at the Massachusetts State House – Courtesy image (c) 2019 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

In an era when otherwise trusted science has been repeatedly questioned at the national level, Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) advocated before the Joint Committee on Education for a bill he filed that will ensure scientifically accepted standards for Massachusetts students.

Gordon filed H. 471, “An Act Relative to Science Curriculum Standards”, co-authored with Bedford science professor Abby Hafer.

“It is critical that our state’s students are exposed to reliable, “fact-based” science in a public school science class,” said Gordon. “There is no room for alternative explanations for evolution in our public schools.  There is no place for climate change deniers.”

Hafer, who teaches at Curry College, could not attend the hearing but provided the committee with written testimony.  She wrote, “[this bill] protects science education in Massachusetts public schools.  This bill requires that when Massachusetts public schools students attend a science class, instruction will be restricted to peer-reviewed subject matter, appropriate to the age of the student. This is a way of making sure that climate change is not denied, nor is evolution by natural selection.”

She outlined her growing concern for a trend she has seen around the country in the last 10 years of states passing laws to include non-scientific materials into public school curricula.
She pointed to the Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008 and the 2012 Tennessee bill commonly known as the “Monkey Bill”.

Gordon agreed.  “We look across the country, and students are being exposed to myth as if fact, in public schools. We read of a public school principal in Boca Raton who believed he could not teach the Holocaust as historic fact because some parents objected.  This is occurring in our country.  We have to take every step we can to make sure it does not happen here.”

Hafer’s husband, Alan MacRobert, a science writer for Sky & Telescope Magazine, also testified.  “In my 37 years at Sky & Telescope and as a physics student in college, I’ve never seen science denialism at the level it is today,” he said. “This simple piece of legislation straightforward that he or she can point to, to show that real science is what that teacher is by law allowed to teach.”

The bill would not require school districts to include curriculum in areas such as evolution, global warming, or whether the Earth is flat or round.  It would, however, require that if those areas receive attention, the teachers stick to age-appropriate, peer-reviewed scientific fact, and identify them a such.

While there is no current instance where a Massachusetts public school has been identified as teaching pseudo-science as reality, Gordon and Hafer explained that in view of today’s challenge upon scientists, one could picture an Anti-Vaxxer or climate change denier finding his or her way to an open school committee seat, and influencing the curriculum of a local district.  “We need this protection before anything like this occurs,” said Gordon.

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