Oklahoma joins the benighted, tries to pass antiscience bill

Oklahoma may be about to join those states that, in an attempt to sneak creationism and global warming denial into the classroom, will enforce a “let a million criticisms flourish” bill on public school classrooms. The repeated failure of creationists and science denialists to force the teaching of antiscience in the classroom has, as you know, given rise to a new strategy: instead of mandating the teaching of, say, creationism or intelligent design, they try to allow “free criticism” of scientific theories (evolution) in the classroom, with the mandate that students not be penalized for views that contradict accepted science.

As Mother Jones reports, a new bill in the Oklahoma legislature, the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act” ( HB 1674; free download at link), has passed the education committee by a 9-8 vote and will soon go to the full legislature:

In biology class, public school students can’t generally argue that dinosaurs and people ran around Earth at the same time, at least not without risking a big fat F. But that could soon change for kids in Oklahoma: On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Common Education committee is expected to consider [JAC: as noted above, it passed] a House bill that would forbid teachers from penalizing students who turn in papers attempting to debunk almost universally accepted scientific theories such as biological evolution and anthropogenic (human-driven) climate change.

Gus Blackwell, the Republican state representative who introduced the bill, insists that his legislation has nothing to do with religion; it simply encourages scientific exploration. “I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks,” says Blackwell, who previously spent 20 years working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations.”

Stated another way, students could make untestable, faith-based claims in science classes without fear of receiving a poor mark.

Well, first of all, modern evolutionary theory doesn’t explain life by “chance mutations” alone: that’s the old creationist canard that “evolution says everything got here by chance,” like assembling a Boeing 747 by blowing wind through a junkyard.  But of course that’s bogus, for complex life (i.e., complex adaptations) arise by a combination of a random process (mutation that creates variation) and a deterministic one (the sorting of that variation via natural selection). The statement shows that Blackwell doesn’t even understand evolution, but is mouthing creationist dogma.

Now as I read the bill (see below), it’s not completely clear whether students really can write papers and give creationist answers without academic penalty, but the intent of the bill is clear: to blur the teaching of real science and superstition in the classroom. It gives teachers free license to “go against what they see in the textbooks”—like evolution.

HB 1674 is the latest in an ongoing series of “academic freedom” bills aimed at watering down the teaching of science on highly charged topics. Instead of requiring that teachers and textbooks include creationism—see the bill proposed by Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin—HB 1674’s crafters say it merely encourages teachers and students to question, as the bill puts it, the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of topics that “cause controversy,” including “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

Eric Meikle, education project director at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, California, says Oklahoma has proposed more anti-evolution legislation than any other state, introducing eight bills with academic freedom language since 2004. (None has passed.) “The problem with these bills is that they’re so open-ended; it’s a kind of code for people who are opposed to teaching climate change and evolution,” Meikle says.

Meikle is right. Let’s look at what the bill says:

A. The Oklahoma Legislature finds that an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens. The Legislature further finds that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics and physics can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on some subjects such as, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.

Note the fields singled out: evolution, the origin of life (often lumped with evolution), global warming, and human cloning (not something often discussed in public-school biology classes).  All of these subjects are mentioned because of how they resonate with the faithful.

B. The State Board of Education, district boards of education, district superintendents and administrators, and public school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues. Educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help 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.

That is, teachers can go against the textbooks, which present accepted science. To me this is the most invidious part of the bill, for it mandates that the teachers themselves will address nonexistent controversies (i.e. whether evolution occurred, whether there’s anthropogenic global warming). This is not just a suggestion, but something that’s mandated. Imagine the confusion that will engender!

C. 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.

This means, in effect, that teachers won’t be penalized for discussing creationism and intelligent design as viable alternative that address the “scientific weaknesses” of the modern theory of evolution. The same goes for global warming.

D. 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. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to exempt students from learning, understanding and being tested on curriculum as prescribed by state and local education standards.

To me, this reads as if students don’t have to believe what they’re tested on, but can still be penalized if their answers on tests or in papers don’t conform to state science standards. And that take doesn’t comport with the opening statement of the Mother Jones piece: “In biology class, public school students can’t generally argue that dinosaurs and people ran around Earth at the same time, at least not without risking a big fat F. But that could soon change for kids in Oklahoma. . . “

Blackwell’s statement, as reported by Mother Jones, contradicts Mother Jones‘s interpretation, but is still a bit ambiguous:

HB 1674 goes further than a companion bill under consideration in the state Senate by explicitly protecting students, teachers, and schools from being penalized for subscribing to alternative theories. It does, however, say that children may still be tested on widely accepted theories such as anthropogenic climate change. “Students can’t say because I don’t believe in this, I don’t want to learn it,” Blackwell says. “They have to learn it in order to look at the weaknesses.”

While implying that students will be “tested on widely accepted theories,” Blackwell also notes that they won’t be “penalized for subscribing to alternative theories.” But what is an F but a penalty? Or can you subscribe to one theory in your heart but be required to parrot the correct scientific answers? If the latter is the case, then this bill doesn’t do anything new vis-à-vis student behavior, for we never ask students to believe what they must write in their papers or tests; merely demonstrate an understanding of modern science.  What worries me more than this is the mandate that teachers must “teach the controversy” when the controversies the bill’s authors have in mind don’t exist.

Finally, in a weaselly attempt to argue that religion isn’t behind all this, the bill has a disclaimer:

E. The provisions of the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act shall only protect the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion. The intent of the provisions of this act is to create an environment in which both the teacher and students can openly and objectively discuss the facts and observations of science, and the assumptions that underlie their interpretation.

What they mean is “hey, folks, don’t think this is religiously and politically motivated, even though it is.” Well, the courts may construe it differently, and let us hope that if this bill is enacted, they will. But let us hope first that the bill won’t get passed, but goes into the legislative dustbin with the eight other bills of this nature that have failed in Oklahoma.

In late January a similar bill was introduced in Indiana, our neighboring state, and in March I’m going there to help fight that one.

h/t: Sarah

60 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    The religious are nothing if not relentless.

    • marycanada FCD
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      Not only relentless, they also have the money to fund their pursuits

    • beyondbelief007
      Posted February 22, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      And let’s face it: their strategy across the board is to get the kids to weasel it into the schools, since the adults have lost every challenge. This goes for “Meet Me At the Pole” days, student initiated prayer, Good News clubs, and so on.

      It’s bad enough. Children are indoctrinated unwillingly, but then the parents turn them into little human shields in their war to shove Jeebus down every throat.

  2. Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Uggghhhh. This is depression. Some people want to drag this country back to the 15th century.

    These extremists might as well bring back the 4 humors, blood-letting, and teaching the earth is flat while they are at it.

  3. pilgrimpater
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    In which case they should teach all creation stories from all religions and give equal footing to Islam as to Christianity in the Religious study classes.

  4. Woof
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    What’s the burr up their ass about “human cloning”? Where’s the “controversial theory” in that?

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      That is in almost all of the bills. Read literally it makes no sense. It makes it sound as if scientists are claiming that it is possible to clone humans, but that these folks know better and want to argue that it is not possible to clone humans. (Well, if it is not possible to do the cloning at all, then there is not much controversy possible over whether to do it, right?).

      But somehow they’ve got mixed up and think that scientists are advocating human cloning, and that advocacy has to stop.

      OK, now switch back to evolution and global warming. I guess they’re arguing that global warming would happen, and evolution wouldn’t occur, if we scientists stopped advocating them. See, all those Darwin’s Finches are listening to us and doing what we advocate …

      • Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        Oope, typo: should be “I guess they’re arguing that global warming wouldn’t happen, and evolution wouldn’t occur …”

        • Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

          Oops meta-type: “Oops” not “Oope”.

          • Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

            Oops, meta-meta-typo: “typo” not “type”.

            I think I really am causing global warming …

            • gbjames
              Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

              That’s the trouble with you clones. Just not quite right.

              • HaggisForBrains
                Posted February 22, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

                +1

                Will the real Joe Felsenstein please stand up. Oh, you’re all Joe Felsenstein!

            • Woof
              Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

              Well, you’re definitely increasing entropy…

              • Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

                Entypo?

                /@

              • Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

                “… encourages students to … respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.”

                I wonder if the legislature would consider exchanges between real scientists about controversial issues such as group selection and punctuated equilibrium to be appropriate and respectful? :-D

                /@

              • Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

                ( Hmm… that was meant to be a general comment, not a reply to Woof. )

      • truthspeaker
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        I wonder if they don’t make a distinction between the Realian cult who claimed they had cloned a human and real scientists.

        • microraptor
          Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

          They can’t seem to make a distinction between their heads and their colons, asking them to distinguish between real scientists and New Age woo spinners is just too much.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        I also think you’ve hit on something very interesting – confusions between saying something is happening with expressing approval of that thing happening.

        • Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          It is puzzling since most of us think evolution is happening and are OK with that. But most of us also think global warming is occurring buit very much don’t think that it is a good thing.

          So why do the bill-writers (and the brainless clones that introduce everywhere) confuse the two? Probably just because it helps firm up support from opponents of human cloning, even if it makes no logical sense.

          • Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

            Aargh, typo: “… that introduce it everywhere ….”

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      subjects such as, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.

      That’s funny – last I heard we don’t try human cloning because it would be unethical. So it doesn’t belong in science class but in social sciences anyway.

  5. Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Wait, is Oklahoma saying that if there is something that evolution doesn’t explain we can get the teacher to help us work out how the FSM did it?

    Are they going to have a chapter on ancient aliens?

    Oh, if only I were still in school!!!

  6. eric
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Looks like pretty boilerplate DI language to me. I think JAC is right in that the Mother Jones article is somewhat mischaracterizing it. Its a bad bill, but its typically bad – it doesn’t take some extra step in requiring teachers give A’s for students not answering test questions correctly, which is what the MJ article says.

    Most of these bills are theater: the rep saying to his constituents “see, I support you,” with no real expectation that they will pass (or even get a vote; most are tabled). We should absolutely track them, and oppose them in articles, letters, etc. However at this point, I would not consider such bills to be a major threat. The consequences of passage could be very negative, but realistically the probability of passage is fairly low.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      It always amazes me how ignorant most “liberal” journalists are about the DI and the creationist movement in general.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Well, the bill that passed in Louisiana was similar DI boilerplate.

      • eric
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and that’s why I said we should monitor and oppose them.

        The NCSE and other groups have also been very good at watching to ensure that once such laws are passed, the practical effect is nil or as close to it as we can detect. I’m sure some parish or school is flying under the radar, but AFAIK no school district has ‘officially’ used the LSEA to teach creationism. LSEA says ‘you can use alternative materials,’ but no one’s using the alternative materials the DI wants them to use.

  7. DrBrydon
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    It’s fun to imagine a case where creationism IS taught in schools:

    “OK, kids, last week’s field trip to see the pigeons at the Field Museum ends the section on evolution. Let’s turn now to Creationism, which is a set of religious doctrines that believers would like you to think is science. You were asked to read the two accounts of creation given in the Bibilical book of Genesis. Janie, can you start us off by pointing out the inconsistencies between those two accounts, and then contrast them with the sequence in which life actually developed…?”

    Or better yet, move it to the part of the course where Scientific Method is discussed. “Jimmy, how do the Bible and other forms of religious experience fail as evidence?”

    I bet we’d see some bills to keep the Bible out of public schools. (Of course, I don’t think such a scenario could or should happen, but it’s amusing to contemplate, and could certainly be entertaining at parties.)

    • microraptor
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      How about a lengthy discussion on Cain, Abel, and the incest that must have occurred due to there being no source of wives for them besides their parents?

      • DrBrydon
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        I always like that exchange in “Inherit the Wind”:

        DRUMMOND: Good. Listen to this: Genesis 4-16. “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the East of Eden. And Cain knew his wife!” Where the hell did she come from?

        BRADY: Who?

        DRUMMOND: Mrs. Cain. Where’d this extra woman spring from? Ever figure that out?

        BRADY: Never bothered me.

        DRUMMOND: Do you figure somebody pulled off another creation, over in the next county?

        • Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

          That part of Inherit the Wind had a good scriptwriter — Clarence Darrow. Here is part of his actual 1926 questioning of William Jennings Bryan:

          Q–Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife?
          A–No, sir; I leave the agnostics to hunt for her.
          Q–You have never found out?
          A–I have never tried to find
          Q–You have never tried to find?
          A–No.
          Q–The Bible says he got one, doesn’t it? Were there other people on the earth at that time?
          A–I cannot say.
          Q–You cannot say. Did that ever enter your consideration?
          A–Never bothered me.
          Q–There were no others recorded, but Cain got a wife.
          A–That is what the Bible says.
          Q–Where she came from you do not know. All right. …

  8. RFW
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Somebody needs to publish a text book “Alternatives to Darwinian Evolution” for school children, and in it include every creation myth and every crackpot evolutionary theory that they can find.

    “Now children, in the theory of the Churning of the Sea of Milk, was the milk raw or pasteurized? Whole-fat, part skim, or skim? Explain your reasoning.”

    Is Xenu ferrying the Thetans to Teegeeack a creation myth?

  9. Veroxitatis
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    “A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life forms may not be explained by chance mutations.”
    Well, of course, random mutation is only part of he matter, but leaving that aside, what is the problem with such an approach? Providing the teacher makes it clear that such a paper must not mention beliefs; must not mention authorities; must contain original experimentation, capable of repetition and falsifiable and must exhibit a deductive process of logic, I see no problem unless a Newton, Einstein or Darwin is in their midst. If properly handled (and that’s a big if) it might teach students something about scientific methodology.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted February 22, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Just what I was thinking.

  10. Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Oklahoma has had 26 such bills, none have yet passed into law. The recent 9-8 vote for the bill is the closest we have come in the House Common Education Committee, but science has prevailed on the Senate side, but by very close votes. Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education ( OESE http://www.oklascience.org ) has acted as an ‘umbrella’ group to mobilize opposition from national and state organizations and many individuals fo the past 12 years.

    Another ‘academic freedom act’ (SB758)is before the Senate Education Committee and may be heard next Monday. Although we have stopped previous creationist bills, it has become much harder as the Legislature has an overwhelming majority of Republicans in both houses with more tea-partier types and religious motivated persons getting elected.

    Efforts at getting opposition messages to the legislative committes continue and, as inthe past, are having a major impact. Addreses for committee members are listed on the OESE web site (above). We are hopeful, but it is increasingly difficult in this reddest of states.

  11. Fastlane
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    It’s probably a good thing I don’t teach high school. And there’s no way in all the nonexistent hells I would do it in the midwest. If some smartass student asked ridiculous questions like that, I would be inclined to ask them right back, if they think they are actually asking any new questions that haven’t been thought of in the past 200 years of research. Cuz they’re supposed to be humble and all, and that’s about as arrogant as one can get.

  12. Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    If you really love science, I think it’s a good idea to know it’s limits. After all, if you don’t understand what you can and can’t do with a tool, you’re bound to misuse it. Thus, how could it be a bad idea, by comparing various theories, to present the students with a realistic picture of how uncertain science is on many of the topics that people call “settled” and “accepted.” Einstein is incompatible with quantum physics, and yet you say we have things “settled?”
    Old questions are still good questions if they haven’t been answered.

    • raven
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      If you really love science, I think it’s a good idea to know it’s limits.

      You could start by knowing your own limits. Nothing you wrote is correct or makes any sense.

      Einstein is incompatible with quantum physics, and yet you say we have things “settled?”

      This is a good example of your limits.

      We don’t have everything settled. We never say that. You said that, not us.

      Science doesn’t know everything. Science will never know everything. This is a good thing. Since it is the main driver of our civilization, if science stopped, we would stop.

      What science is good at is finding things out. We have the questions and know how to answer them.

      Old questions are still good questions if they haven’t been answered.

      That leaves out your creationism. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, the Big Boat genocide never happened, and evolution is both a fact and theory.

      • raven
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        Einstein is incompatible with quantum physics, and yet you say we have things “settled?”

        BTW, this is only partly correct also.

        In fact, QM would make grossly inaccurate predictions if Dirac hadn’t shown up and tied QM together with special relativity to create “relativistic QM”.

        Einstein’s special relativity has been unified with quantum mechanics, long ago by Paul Dirac.

        This hasn’t happened yet with General Relativity. But so what? It doesn’t mean they are wrong, it means they are incomplete.

    • eric
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      how could it be a bad idea, by comparing various theories, to present the students with a realistic picture of how uncertain science is on many of the topics that people call “settled” and “accepted.”

      Go for it, as long as you stick to real uncertainties and not baloney creationist ones. Want to discuss the contentious issue of how big a role genetic drift plays in evolution? Be my guest.

      But somehow, I don’t think you mean things like that. I think you mean presenting students with religious claims that species were poofed into separate existence by miracle, and trying to pretend that’s science. It isn’t.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      What limits? How do we observe and test them?

      Let us first see what we _have_ settled beyond reasonable doubt:

      – With the observation of the Higgs field, “The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Are Completely Understood“. (Ref: Physicist Sean Carroll.)

      – With the observation of inflation last year, we know that the universe is a spontaneous product and magic is entirely absent from it. (Ref: Physicist Lawrence Krauss; his latest book.)

      In fact, all universes with a spacetime must be a spontaneous product.

      – Both special relativity, in the form of quantum field theory, and general relativity, in the form of a perfectly fine effective field theory description of gravity, is compatible with quantum mechanics. (ref: Physicists Jacques Distler.)

      “To any finite order in that expansion, only a finite number of couplings contribute to the amplitude for some physical process. We have a finite number of experiments to do, to measure the values of those couplings. After that, everything else is a prediction.

      In other words, as an effective field theory, gravity is no worse, nor better, than any other of the effective field theories we know and love.”

      The problem is that general relativity is an effective theory since spacetime is an emergent phenomena. Hence the correspondence breaks down at higher energy, since general relativity & spacetime breaks down. But there is no problem of principle, unless you yearn for some TOE.

      I think that is good going for 470 year of science (if you count the Copernican revolution: I don’t).

      Where are the limits? Yes, there are more physics out there. But that isn’t a problem, that is a feature. (Or at least physicists looking for work thinks so.)

  13. Ken Pidcock
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help 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.

    There’s the key to this shit. What awkward language. Why not “…review in an objective manner diverse scientific theories pertinent…”? Because that wouldn’t accomplish the goal, which is to provide teachers with cover for misleading attacks on conventional evolutionary theory, mainly that it doesn’t offer detailed accounts of macroevolutionary changes.

  14. quiscalus
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    My 15 year old son told me that tuesday his “Biology” teacher made the usual statement about evolution being “only a theory” and that there are many other theories out there but they won’t be discussing them because some people will get offended. Not sure yet what to do about that. I was furious, to say the least. So, should I contact the teacher and complain? My son said she graduated from a jesuit school in St. Louis, so i doubt I’ll be getting a fair hearing and we are in the bible belt (south of Kansas City, Mo). His French teacher is a muslim who wears her headscarf proudly and wouldn’t show them her French drivers license because “The French are racist and wouldn’t let her cover her hair”. Amusingly, she’s a white American who married a French North African,not to mention that Islam is not a race…

    I’m so ashamed to be back in this idiotic, backwards state.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Complain to the principle.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Better yet, complain the the principal.

      • Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        Hell, yes!

        /@

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted February 22, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        Complain to the principal, on principle.

    • raven
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Not sure yet what to do about that. I was furious, to say the least. So, should I contact the teacher and complain?

      1. Wouldn’t hurt.

      2. Be very calm and polite. Start by asking questions about what was actually said and ask them what it really means. That puts them on the spot and quite often they will start denying everything, a good sign. That scares them a lot more than some wild eyed guy ranting and raving.

      Polite and intelligent people don’t rant and rave. They have lawyers do that for them.

      3. The calmest person usually wins these.

      4. Rules 1-5 for school administration is Don’t rock the boat. If they know someone is watching them and cares, and they know teaching creationism is illegal (which it is), chances are they will keep their heads down. Most public employees aren’t interested in being martyrs, they just want to earn their paychecks and go home at night.

      • Fastlane
        Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        I hate to go all paranoid, but depending on your kid’s willingness, it might be worth seeing if they can get a recording. Otherwise, you’ll likely end up in the same boat as Matthew LaClair. I spent most of the 7 years I lived in KS fighting the school board there as part of KCFS, and the wingnuts come and go, but there always seem to be one or two trying to push this stuff.

        Also, support your local CFS (citizens for science) group!

        • quiscalus
          Posted February 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

          my son didn’t say anything, which was a shocker because he’s usually quite the smart ass. He says he doesn’t feel comfortable, well, actually, that he’ll get his ass kicked by the other kids (he thinks) if he stands out too much as an atheist in this school. This is his first year away from a French-immersion K-8 school so it’s been quite an eye-opener for him.

    • eric
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Frankly if that’s the only sideswipe she takes, I’d let it go. Sounds like she’s complaining about not being allowed to present creationism…which at least shows she knows she’s not allowed to present it.

      But I’d keep an eye on his homework/written assignments and tests. If it starts to go non-mainstream, time to immediately call the teacher and administration. This approach also has the advantage of physical proof; the homework (or in-class) assignment itself. You don’t put the principal into a ‘student said/teacher said’ situation.

      If you know (and trust) parents of other kids in the class, it would be good to bring them in too. One parent can be dismissed as a crank. Five parents showing up to complain about the same teacher, not so much.

      • quiscalus
        Posted February 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        I’m inclined to let it go if that’s all that was said, but I asked him for his notes and I do want to keep an eye on things. This is the only non-AP or pre-AP course he has. Hopefully when he moves up into higher level courses he will be able to escape some of this, but who knows. I don’t know any other parents in the area, we’ve only recently moved back here. I went to school here too, years ago, but before the whole anti-evolution shit storm was stirred up in Kansas so I avoided it, but this is a very religious area. I’m not sure I could find five secular people in the whole high school much less in one classroom. I’ll just have to wait and see.

  15. truthspeaker
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    ^to

  16. Divalent
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    If passed, then for responsible teachers there is an easy work around: frame the material about evolution and geology (and physics, etc) as the “current scientific consensus” (or even add “overwhelmingly” to that to emphasize the point) and have test questions framed the same way. So that even if the kid is a creationist, they still have to show they understand the scientific consensus. (And so can be penalized by giving a creationist answer.) In the end, that is really the important thing anyway.

    OTOH, unfortunately a substantial fraction of teachers will probably use this as a means to teach religion. In which case, eductional standards would need to be written in such a way to acheive the same outcome.

  17. Cremnomaniac
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    It seems that there are two principal issues with this bill that have potential to do damage.

    The first,

    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

    JAC: :the most invidious part of the bill…”

    While it is insidious, I think the bigger problem is that it opens the door for teachers that WANT to teach controversies. There’s no penalty for unscrupulous teachers that contaminate the classroom with bullshit.

    This runs contrary to the bills language regarding the “objective manner” of review. Any teacher that would promote the controversies is far from objective, and should be no where near a classroom, but the bill would allow it.

    Second,

    The Legislature further finds that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics and physics can cause controversy…

    This bill seems to suggest that ANY source of controversy is fair game, be it a social issue or a moral one. There is no indication that they are only considering controversy among scientists based on scientific understanding.

    There is no controversy about evolution, none about the age of the earth, nor cause of global warming. This is the open door to religion derived controversy.
    It has nothing to do with science.

  18. Georgina
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    Will this bill also permit science teachers to visit Sunday school to classes and ‘discuss the controversy’ of:
    Surviving 3 days in a whales’ stomach;
    Having the Earth cease to spin for any length of time and how did it get started again (sun standing still in the sky);
    The morality of sonic weaponry (Jericho);
    How sufficient water could be generated in a closed system to cover the complete planet, and where did it go afterwards.

  19. Jim
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    I think this is fine – don’t flunk the kids for trying to overturn scientific evidence; flunk them for the lunatic and unscientific reasoning they’ll be forced to employ in the attempt!

  20. Posted February 22, 2013 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Science Geek and commented:
    The March of Creationist bigots continues…Under different guises creationists have tried to pass a legislature which would undermine science and bring forth a macabre explanation of natural phenomena through the lens of creationism. The major problem is that these legislations are put forth by people who have not read a single book on evolutionary biology but have digested creationist/intelligent design texts or faulty interpreations of evolutionary biology. In these very dark times, its time when we fight off these well funded, misguided attempts to take us back to the dark ages!!

  21. Posted February 22, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    The March of Creationist bigots continues…Under different guises creationists have tried to pass a legislature which would undermine science and bring forth a macabre explanation of natural phenomena through the lens of creationism. The major problem is that these legislations are put forth by people who have not read a single book on evolutionary biology but have digested creationist/intelligent design texts or faulty interpretations of evolutionary biology. In these very dark times, its time when we fight off these well funded, misguided attempts to take us back to the dark ages!!

  22. Harold E. Hill
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    A Presbyterian (USA) minister and Yale PhD with some field experience in both micro- and macro- paleontology and retired from 40 years teaching ‘the scientific study of religion in human cultures’.

    I have read the ‘Old Testament’ and ‘New Testament in their original languages (and taught those languages).

    My guess is that, with time, theology (a subdivison of philosophy) will continue to change as education and educators become more sophisticated, knowledgeable and effective etc., etc.


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