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Teachers stand up for science

New York Teacher

With an administration in the White House that has shown skepticism and even contempt for scientific research and evidence, science teachers and other UFT members took to the streets on Saturday, April 22, along with thousands of fellow New Yorkers at the March for Science.

The New York City march was one of dozens held in cities across the country and around the world on Earth Day to demonstrate support for publicly funded science. California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium even held its own mini march featuring African penguins with signs that read “Climate change is black and white” and “Science gives us happy feet.”

Lauren Kassirer, who teaches living environment and science at the Academy of American Studies in Long Island City, Queens, was among the New York City marchers who convened near Columbus Circle and marched south on Broadway past Trump International Hotel and Tower. She held a student-made sign that said: “Science is the method of observing and experimenting what is waiting to be known. Support science education!”

Four students, she said, worked unprompted over a lunch period to make the protest sign after she took a moment in class to make her students aware of the march and to talk to them about how national science policies are changing and how those changes will affect them.

“Everything that we do is based on science and science has an impact on every part of our lives,” said Kassirer. “I don’t want to see it defunded.”

Karen Engel, a teacher at PS 112 in East Harlem, said she has been “horrified” by some of the Trump administration’s new policies, particularly budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I believe in science and I believe it’s vital for education,” said Engel.

Ken Hornstein, a retired social studies teacher, expressed similar concerns about the EPA.

“We have the budgets of the EPA and the National Institutes of Health being cut while the wealthiest people in our country are getting tax breaks,” he said. “It’s very unfair and very dangerous to our health.”

Hornstein said educators should feel compelled to speak out.

“One of the skills we teach our kids is how to determine and understand what facts are,” he said. “When children see the leaders of the country saying facts are ‘fake news,’ the Trump administration is muddying the waters and making it confusing for a lot of people.”

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