Earlier this week, legislators in Tennessee approved a bill that singles out public school science education for special attention. Now, the Oklahoma House has passed a very similar bill that attacks an identical range of subjects that the legislation deems controversial: biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.
Both bills contain identical language, saying they “shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine.” There’s also identical language about how they’re intended to “help students develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens.” However, the subjects they target are not areas where there are significant scientific controversies; either the bills’ sponsors are poorly informed (and thus shouldn’t be injecting themselves into science education), or they have non-educational goals in mind.
There is no controversy here except for religious partisans who require statutory relief to get their minority views forced onto students.
If a particular scientific theory requires a conservative government regulation to sustain itself, I would submit it is not so much about the science but about the politics.
Reading the bill is really laughable. Like this:
Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories.
How does this work in reality? Can a student who states they believe in the recent creation of all life on Earth simply state that for every biology question? Getting an “F” would certainly be a penalty.
This is the meat of the bill:
The State Board of Education, a district board of education, district superintendent or administrator, or public school principal or administrator shall not prohibit any teacher in a school district in this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.
Since special creation is not scientific, I guess my previous point is moot. A teacher could objectively state “There is no scientific evidence for special creation.” and be perfectly okay.
And there are no controversial scientific theories to really be taught dealing with evolution. And there are no real scientific controversies about whether the globe is warming.
I think that these legislators simply do not know what a scientific theory is. Coming up with any sort of idea does not make it science.
I think that in the long run, these bills will not accomplish the political purpose of the sponsors and will simply serve as examples of the partisanship of certain politicians.
But in the short run there will be some real bullying of teachers by the ultra-religious.