Science education is essential to NM’s future

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COMMENTARY: As senators who proudly represent the world-class scientists at New Mexico’s national laboratories, research universities, military installations and high-tech businesses, we call on policymakers to use science as a guiding light.

Tom Udall

Courtesy photo

Tom Udall

Our capacity to seize opportunities and face the many challenges ahead rests heavily on our ability to make decisions driven by scientific data. And our state’s economic future depends on ensuring that the next generation has the knowledge and skills – especially in science and math – to qualify for jobs in cutting-edge fields.

That is why we were so disturbed to learn that the New Mexico Public Education Department has proposed watering down science education standards for our public schools by removing any references to rising temperatures, climate change and evolution. If we weaken our science standards to advance an ideological agenda at the expense of scientific facts, we will put New Mexico at a distinct disadvantage.

And we encourage all New Mexicans to speak out against this plan to undermine the quality of K-12 science education.

For decades, advances in science have fueled New Mexico’s economic growth. Investment in scientific research during and after World War II drove the greatest era of prosperity in our nation’s history, when millions of families joined the middle class and reaped the benefits of America’s technological superiority.

Our state was home to breakthroughs that changed the way we power our electric grid, protect our national security and connect the world. Our scientists continue to play a major role in creating the technologies and materials that will grow our small businesses and drive our nation’s economy.

Martin Heinrich

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Martin Heinrich

We want New Mexico to lead in the modern high-tech economy, and that means we must continue to welcome scientific thinkers and innovators on the cutting edge of biomedicine, advanced materials, computing and clean energy development. Censoring science in our schools will slow the growth of our businesses and dissuade future investment into New Mexico from those looking to relocate their business or company here.

We can only keep our place at the center of scientific innovation if we educate the next generation of New Mexico students with a strong foundation in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. Our students need to be equipped with the most rigorous standards if they are going to compete in a global market. Providing an ideologically scrubbed curriculum shortchanges our children and intentionally leaves them behind the rest of the world, all in the name of some obscure political agenda.

Building a better education pipeline from cradle-to-career that prepares all New Mexicans for STEM careers is the one sure way to build a better economic future in our state. Our students who are learning science and technology skills in the classroom right now will be the researchers, entrepreneurs and highly skilled labor force that create new jobs and major new industries in New Mexico.

It is also critical for us to meet the challenges of climate change head on. In the coming years, New Mexico will face the realities of extended droughts, increased wildfire activity and greater floods. We can’t adequately respond and adapt to these climate disruptions if we pretend they don’t exist or hide the truth from our children.

We urge all New Mexicans to make their voices heard as the Public Education Department seeks public input on their proposed new science standards. There is a better way forward that gives our students all of the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed.

Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats, are New Mexico’s U.S. senators. Agree with their opinion? Disagree? NMPolitics.net welcomes your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.

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