Board of Education
I visited my son’s eighth grade science class at Canyon Vista Middle School this month. They are in the midst of their Earth science unit. Unfortunately, this is the last time that my son will be able to study Earth science in public school in Texas.
I asked the class some questions
to gauge their perspective on several topics:
In all fairness, I didn’t expect these eighth graders to know the answers to these questions. Such topics might be investigated in a high school Earth science course; unfortunately, this cannot, and therefore will not, happen today in Texas.
I’m Scott Tinker. I am Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology and the State Geologist of Texas. I am a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and hold the Allday Chair of Subsurface Geology. Prior to coming to the University of Texas 4 years ago, I spent 18 years working in exploration, production, and research in the energy industry. My father is a geologist. My brother is a geophysicist. I am admittedly biased, but also informed on this topic.
More important than my bias, I am the father of four children, three of whom are currently attending Texas public schools. It is for them that I come before you to offer unqualified support for Recommendation I of the Texas Earth Science Task Force. Earth science courses must be a core credit option to satisfy the science requirement for students enrolled in Recommended and Distinguished Achievement high school plans.
Every day, Texas citizens are impacted by decisions regarding water resources, waste disposal, coastal erosion, flooding, development of mineral resources such as sand, gravel, and limestone, and development of energy resources such as oil, natural gas, coal, hydroelectric, and renewables. To cast wise votes, read a newspaper with authority, or participate in public debate, citizens need to be educated in the basic concepts of Earth science. Water, energy, and land use are critical issues facing all of us, and in my view it is unacceptable that we face these potential crises with uninformed citizens. The cost of ignorance of these issues is simply too great.
An informed citizen should
Texas will need natural scientists, policy makers, and engineers to deal with various natural resource and environmental fields of endeavor, and children need to be exposed to these exciting ideas and concepts. For the next 50 years, fossil fuels will continue to be an important part of the energy supply and hundreds of thousands of Texans will be employed in exploring, developing, refining, and transporting the fuels or regulating the industry. The negative environmental impact of these activities has decreased dramatically over the past three decades and will continue to do so as informed young people enter the workplace. Alternative energy sources will be excellent supporting sources of energy during this transition, but they cannot meet our energy needs in the near and mid term. Citizens need to know this.
Texas will need scientists to interact with decision makers to deal with the commodity of water and the various surface, subsurface, desalinization, and commercialization options available to supply water. The need to address environmental issues associated with water will be with us forever. Increasing numbers of young people will be employed in fields related to hydrology and environmental management.
Many of the great challenges facing us in science and engineering today occur at the overlap between traditional sciences. The Earth sciences are multidisciplinary and address precisely these scientific overlaps. Earth sciences represent a true integration of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and computer sciences and provide an organizational framework for how we view much of the natural world. Earth sciences combine observation with analysis and can stimulate an abiding interest in all science.
The Earth sciences also illustrate the consequences that the actions of humans and other life forms have on the land, and provide an understanding of the options that are available to deal with such impact. Whether the students live in a large city or a small town, in the country, or along the coast, a well-taught course in the Earth sciences will enrich their lives and the lives of those around them.
I strongly support, and urge you to approve, Recommendation I as unanimously recommended by the Texas Earth Science Task Force.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I think Texas kids, including mine, will thank you as well.
Scott W. Tinker, Ph.D.
Citizen of Texas and father