Parent’s concerns with chemistry textbook’s references to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
PASO ROBLES — Despite challenges from the public, Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) trustees approved new textbooks for Advanced Placement Chemistry and Advanced Placement Physics at the Tuesday, March 14 board meeting.
Both trustees, Dorian Baker and Laurene McCoy, voted against the approval, sharing concerns with multiple parents over content inside the chemistry textbook. Trustee Sondra Williams was absent from the meeting, leaving Trustees Joel Peterson (attending virtually), Jim Cogan, and Nathan Williams to approve.
“The trend toward politicizing our academic subjects is very troubling, and the only way we can get it to stop is to push back. Just because we are feeling pressure to get a new textbook doesn’t mean we have to do it at the expense of academic truth,” explained Baker prior to her vote.
According to staff, the science curriculum was publicly displayed at the District Office from Feb. 15 to March 3, with notifications of the public display was posted at the District Office, Paso Robles High School, and Liberty High School, and was emailed to Paso Robles High School families.
Parents issued concerns specifically with the chemistry textbook’s references to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This is a set of 17 goals proposed by the UN in 2016 “for global sustainable development that span social, economic, and environmental issues. The UN has challenged the world to achieve these goals by 2030,” as referenced in the textbook.
You can read about the goals in full here un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
Textbooks for these courses were last updated in 2010.
Two PRJUSD parents challenged the new chemistry textbook. One letter received on Feb. 7 from Beverley Ramos read, “The United Nations 2030 agenda: it is political and divisive, and the examples throughout the book are biased towards that agenda.”
Another parent, Jessica Barrett, also challenged the chemistry textbook in a letter, “I was very surprised to find the United Nations Sustainability Goals for 2030 within the first few pages. Many things included in this plan are very controversial and political and have no place in a high school chemistry book.”
In response to the challenges, staff wrote, “These sustainability goals are tied to small sections throughout the text called ‘Chemistry and Sustainability’ … if you read through them, you will find they focus on real-world applications of major chemistry topics and related current research that today’s professional chemists are undertaking … I agree that it is important to focus on multiple sides and arguments of controversial issues but that is not the focus of these sections of the text.”
Baker asked to see a new textbook for the AP Chemistry course and added, “We ask for parent involvement, and when we get it, our parents feel disrespected because their time doesn’t seem to be appreciated when it’s given this last-minute attention.”
Challenging Baker’s position, Trustee Cogan said, “I’m worried we might be looking for a political controversy when so many of the UN’s goals are goals I think we all share.”
He added, “I don’t see a reason to delay implementation of an AP Chemistry book because there is a tangential reference to an organization that we [the United States] are founding members of.”
After trustee discussion, the new textbooks were approved with a 3-2 vote — Baker and McCoy voting no. Trustee Williams was absent.
See Paso Robles Press’s complete coverage on the Tuesday, March 14 meeting online at pasoroblespress.com
The next Paso Robles Joint Unified School District board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 30, at 6 p.m.