This is a special issue devoted to science and math education.
Young Students Against Bad Science
By DOUGLAS QUENQUA
Published: September 2, 2013
Your parents may have had to walk uphill, both ways, to get to school. But as ideological warfare threatens the teaching of climate science and evolution in many schools, it is clear that today’s students face their own obstacles on the road to a respectable science education — and some are speaking out.
Michael Stravato for The New York Times
Zack Kopplin is trying to overturn a law that allows creationism to be taught in Louisiana schools.
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For his high school senior project, Zack Kopplin started a campaign to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, a 2008 law passed in his home state that opens a “back door” to teaching creationism in public schools, he says. Currently taking a year off from Rice University to work and travel, Mr. Kopplin, 20, is widely recognized as the state’s leading voice against science denial education. He has expanded his campaign to fight similar laws across the country, as well as the use of public vouchers to send students to religious schools. He argues regularly, if unsuccessfully, before the Louisiana Senate to strike down the law, and his April appearance on “Real Time With Bill Maher,” in which he faced off against a conservative economist, Stephen Moore, went viral.
“I’m proud to be from Louisiana, but I don’t want people to laugh at me when I go out of state. ‘Oh that’s the guy from the stupid state with the creationism law,’ ” Mr. Kopplin said.
In Britain in March, Esha Marwaha, a 16-year-old from Hounslow, West London, started an online petition calling for Education Secretary Michael Gove to abandon a plan to remove references to climate change from the geography curriculum for students under 14. The petition got more than 30,000 signatures, and in July, Mr. Gove changed course.
Ms. Marwaha, a self-described geography fanatic, said lessons about climate change — whether it is caused by people or not — are crucial to keeping future students engaged in evidence-based science.
“We do need to come out with an actual well-rounded education,” she said.
Then there is Katelyn Campbell, 18, whose objection to a factually dubious sex-education assembly at her high school bubbled over into a confrontation with her principal, which bubbled over onto the Internet.
As a senior at George Washington High School in Charleston, W.Va., Ms. Campbell complained to the American Civil Liberties Union about an April assembly featuring an abstinence advocate, Pam Stenzel. Among the lessons Ms. Stenzel shared with the school that day, according to a friend of Ms. Campbell’s who taped the assembly, was that condoms provide no protection from sexually transmitted diseases. “She called out any woman who had sexual contact,” said Ms. Campbell, who boycotted the assembly. “I saw people crying when they came out.”
Irritated by her actions, Ms. Campbell said, her principal threatened to tell Wellesley College, where Ms. Campbell had been accepted, that she was a troublemaker. Ms. Campbell filed an injunction against her principal, seeking to prevent him from “discriminating against me in any way,” and told the news media her story.
Several days later, Wellesley used its Twitter account to make its position known: “Katelyn Campbell, #Wellesley is excited to welcome you this fall.”
Ms. Campbell now attends Wellesley, where she is double majoring in American studies and chemistry.