Science and education professionals are increasingly alarmed about the impact Donald Trump’s cabinet picks — many of them evangelical Christians — could have on science standards in public schools.
Candidate Trump repeatedly pledged to end the existing Common Core curricula standards for math and English. Critics worry that could open the door to rethinking science standards and lead to the teaching of creationism and Intelligent Design, pseudo-scientific notions about Earth’s origins with little or no support from scientists.
Vice-president elect Mike Pence and Dr. Ben Carson, Trump’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, are both known creationists.
Writing in Scientific American, Devin Powell quotes science education advocates warning that “the legitimization of such nonscientific views at the highest levels of government could trickle down to local policies.”
He writes that battles over how evolution and climate change should be taught are already being fought in states such as Louisiana and Texas, where there are bills in the state legislatures that would let teachers to treat the subjects as controversial.
“Nearly all of this legislation has emerged in states that were won by Trump,” he wrote.
Also of concern, critics say, is the appointment of Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education. DeVos is a champion of school vouchers, a program to send public money to religious or private schools. She and her husband, Dick DeVos, have framed their support for vouchers in terms of “advance(ing) God’s kingdom.”
As a candidate for governor of Indiana, Dick DeVos supported the teaching of Intelligent Design.
There is also concern over presidential support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics — STEM — curricula. Quincy Brown, program director for STEM Education Research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science cited President barack Obama’s 2011 initiative to train 100,000 new STEM teachers.
“These kinds of initiatives motivate the educational community,” Brown told Scientific American. “If messages like that are not coming from the top, I wonder whether there will be a shift in priorities.”