This was the first year that N.C. K-12 Science Standards were formally reviewed since 2009 — way too long. I first became aware of what was being proposed when the 2nd Draft was published on the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) website. As a professional scientist, I read these carefully and had two major concerns

The first was that nowhere in any of the state’s 15 Science Standards was the scientific method even mentioned! When asked about this omission, the DPI answers were:  

a) It wasn’t their doing, as the scientific method was dropped from the N.C. K-12 Science Standards over 10 years ago. 

b) The scientific method is undesirable as it promotes “linear thinking.” 

c) They had replaced the scientific method with an “improved” version — the progressive Science and Engineering Practices. 

d) Even though the scientific method had been deleted from N.C. Science Standards, that did not prevent any local N.C. teacher from teaching it. 

e) No one had formally complained about the scientific method removal in these last 10 years, so what’s the big deal?

My response to each of these was: 

a) No one that I’m aware of said that it was the current DPI who removed the scientific method from the state’s Science Standards. This year we are formally reviewing the current N.C. Science Standards to see what can be improved on — and adding back the scientific method is one major recommendation. 

b) The linear thinking claim is nonsense for multiple reasons: i) it is just parroted from the progressive Frameworkii) linear thinking is not a bad thing,  iii) the Scientific Method is not linear thinking anyway, etc.  For more details read this

c) The progressive Science and Engineering Practices is not an “improvement” of the scientific method! See Appendix I of my Education Report for details. 

d) Yes, even though the scientific method had been deleted from N.C. Science Standards, that does not prevent any N.C. teacher from teaching it. However, this deletion is reflected in state-approved textbooks and statewide tests — so it is not likely that many teachers will take a path that deviates from the state’s. 

e) Yes, it is concerning that there have not been complaints by parents, citizens, and legislators — but the most probable answer is that they were unaware that the scientific method was no longer being taught in N.C. Also, teachers are not likely to complain as they don’t want to buck the system. Conservative organizations have chosen to focus on other education problems (e.g., school choice). 

What happened this year regarding the 2023 N.C. DPI proposed Science Standards

1) In the first draft of the updates, there was no mention of the scientific method. 

2) In the second draft of the updates, there was no mention of the scientific method. It was at this point that I formally filed a written objection about this to DPI. They subsequently said that they receive some 14,000 inputs on the Science Standards, and apparently, I was the only one bringing up this issue (!). 

3) In the third draft of the updates, there was no mention of the scientific method. Having been alerted to this matter, two SBE members (out of 18) queried DPI about this omission, and (per above) pushed back against the DPI answers. 

4) In the final version of the updates, there were significant changes regarding the scientific method. This version was approved by the SBE on July 6, 2023! 

The new N.C. words regarding the scientific method are excellent. The addition of these words is to the credit of N.C. DPI and N.C. SBE, so kudos to them. This new emphasis on the scientific method will be beneficial to all NC K-12 students. 

Dumping the scientific method has been a planned progressive strategy, which started back in 2012 with the Framework for K-12 Science Education, which morphed into Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS has been fully or mostly adopted by some 45 states. Hopefully, some of those states will follow the good N.C. example and reinstate the scientific method in their K-12 Science Standards. 

I’m optimistic that N.C. DPI and SBE will soon address my second major concern here: the Science Standards need more specificity regarding critical thinking. Currently, critical thinking does not appear in these standards! 

With a little thought, it should be clear that there is an intimate connection between a critical thinking analysis (comprehensive and objective), and the scientific method (a universal problem-solving procedure). 

Further, N.C.’s Portrait of a Graduate, proudly proclaims that critical thinking is a key characteristic that DPI is promising legislators, parents, and citizens, that N.C. students will be proficient in doing — yet nothing about it appears in the Science Standards, the most appropriate place for critical thinking to be taught… 

Using the same cooperative spirit (plus public support) we can fix the critical thinking deficiency in short order. That would be in the best interest of ALL NC K-12 students. It could also be a fatal blow to the left’s plan for education indoctrination, as their worst fear is to have critical thinking citizens.