NAGT and Public Policy: Educating Lawmakers on the Importance of Geoscience Education

published Feb 23, 2010 4:32pm

by Eric Riggs (CRESME, Purdue University)
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NAGT is increasingly visible and outspoken among geoscience professional societies in advancing the importance of teaching gesocience nationwide. Over the last few years, NAGT has added our collective voice to the defense of the geosciences in state educational standards in New Jersey and Texas, and has spoken collectively in support of the inclusion of the Earth Sciences in any proposal for national science curriculum standards. The Association is also unique among geoscience societies in our adoption of official position statements advocating the teaching of evolution and all aspects of climate change science. While larger professional societies like the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America have adopted position statements supporting scientific conclusions on these issues, we have advocated for broad classroom and public education of the facts underlying scientific debate in these important areas.

The National Association of Geoscience Teachers is one of the 45 member societies represented by the American Geological Institute (AGI), and we are a regular participant in the AGI Government Affairs and Policy Advisory Committee. One of the routine activities of this committee and the Government Affairs staff at AGI is the organization of the Congressional Visits Days (CVD). AGI works with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to add the voice of the Geosciences to the broad science and engineering presence on Capitol Hill each April, and independently coordinates Geoscience Congressional Visit Day (GEO-CVD) each September. These visits are conducted by members of AGI member societies, including many NAGT members, accompanied by AGI, AGU and university Federal affairs staff. None of these visits constitute lobbying, as all are designed simply to inform elected officials of the impact of geoscience and Federal investment in the earth sciences on congressional districts and states. Our Federal officials typically enjoy hearing about the outcomes of their Federal investments in their home districts, and in recent years the result of these visits has been increased awareness of and support for geosciences funding in the Federal government, both in research and education.

However, there is substantial room for increased involvement by the NAGT membership in these activities. Members of Congress typically only wish to meet with constituents from their own states and districts, which means that we ideally need NAGT members from all 50 states and Puerto Rico to participate in the CVD events to have the largest impact. We have already developed geoscience education support materials for these visits (available on the NAGT website for immediate use), and the AGI, AGU and GSA staff is very supportive of the geoscience education message on Capitol Hill. We need to build a larger contingent of NAGT members from states and territories around the Nation, and we also need to build a strong contingent of policy-engaged members in all sections of NAGT to communicate with Federal, state and local lawmakers at home in local offices as well. Ideally our association should stand ready to respond to geoscience education policy issues locally, regionally, and nationally.

To accomplish this goal of increased representation, NAGT has started a new email list to A) alert members to needs for immediate input on policy issues, and B) provide news and updates on opportunities to participate in national events, including CVD and other activities on the policy front organized across the geosciences community. Join the list if you would like to receive this kind of correspondence. We encourage you to get involved and help NAGT serve the broader needs for a geoscience education presence in policy discussions at local, state, and the national level. The first scheduled opportunity to participate directly is the upcoming AAAS Congressional Visits Day, April 28-29, 2010 in Washington, D.C. For further information in participation in this event, please contact Linda Rowan at the American Geological Institute at or Eric Riggs, NAGT representative to the AGI-Government Affairs committee. We look forward to you joining us on the Hill this Spring!