A group of Arizona Republicans are out with a new bill to undermine the teaching of evolution and subjects such as climate change and cloning in the classroom. The National Center for Science Education called the legislation another “instance of the ‘academic freedom’ strategy for undermining the teaching of evolution and climate change.”
The proposed “teach the controversy” bill is a stealthy attack on evolution as it tries to make science classes give equal weight to nonscientific beliefs and theologies. It’s the equivalent of including claims made by the Flat Earth Society in a geology class, all for the sake of “balance.”
A. THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, COUNTY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS, SCHOOL DISTRICT GOVERNING BOARDS, SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENTS, SCHOOL PRINCIPALS AND SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS SHALL ENDEAVOR TO:
1. CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT IN SCHOOLS THAT ENCOURAGES PUPILS TO EXPLORE SCIENTIFIC QUESTIONS, LEARN ABOUT SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE, DEVELOP CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS AND RESPOND APPROPRIATELY AND RESPECTFULLY TO DIFFERENCES OF OPINION ABOUT CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES.
2. ASSIST TEACHERS TO FIND EFFECTIVE WAYS TO PRESENT THE SCIENCE CURRICULUM AS IT ADDRESSES SCIENTIFIC CONTROVERSIES. TEACHERS SHALL BE ALLOWED TO HELP PUPILS UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, CRITIQUE AND REVIEW IN AN OBJECTIVE MANNER THE SCIENTIFIC STRENGTHS AND SCIENTIFIC WEAKNESSES OF EXISTING SCIENTIFIC THEORIES COVERED IN THE COURSE BEING TAUGHT.
B. THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, COUNTY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS, SCHOOL DISTRICT GOVERNING BOARDS, SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENTS, SCHOOL PRINCIPALS AND SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS SHALL NOT PROHIBIT ANY TEACHER IN THIS STATE FROM HELPING PUPILS UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, CRITIQUE AND REVIEW IN AN OBJECTIVE MANNER THE SCIENTIFIC STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF EXISTING SCIENTIFIC THEORIES COVERED IN THE COURSE BEING TAUGHT.
C. THIS SECTION PROTECTS ONLY THE TEACHING OF SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION AND DOES NOT 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.
Sec. 2. Intent
The legislature finds and declares that:
1. An important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to becoming intelligent, productive and scientifically informed citizens.
2. The teaching of some scientific subjects, including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy.
3. Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.
At a Republican National Committee winter summit yesterday, Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal scolded his fellow Republicans for acting like “the stupid party,” which he said damaged their credibility in the last election:
In his remarks to the gathering, he also offered some tough medicine for the GOP, including this piece of advice: “We must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and visions for America in real terms. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. We’ve had enough of that.” Whether or not Jindal ultimately emerges as a top presidential contender, look for him to be a major presence, not just in Louisiana, but around the country as well as a key figure in helping the party chart its course forward.
Of course, this is the same Bobby Jindal who is literally dumbing down Louisiana’s education system by advocating the teaching of creationism in taxpayer-funded schools.
Jindal signed into law and vocally supported the ironically-named Louisiana Science Education Act, which has been described as a “thinly veiled attempt to allow creationism into the science classrooms of his state.”
Last year, Jindal established a private school voucher program that will bring taxpayer dollars to schools that explicitly teach creationism:
Whatever the merits of this program might be, observers in the state were stunned when they saw some of the schools on the list of those eligible to accept the vouchers. They include a school whose students will be taught to “discern and refute the lies commonly found in textbooks,” including, of course, evolution. Another school prepares students to “defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible,” and yet another assures students that no instruction is included in its textbooks “that would conflict with young earth creationism.”
One of the schools funded by Jindal’s program teaches that the alleged existence of the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution:
This 2012-2013 school year, thanks to a bill pushed through by governor Bobby Jindal, thousands of students in Louisiana will receive state voucher money, transferred from public school funding, to attend private religious schools, some of which teach from a Christian curriculum that suggests the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution and states that the alleged creature, which has never been demonstrated to even exist, has been tracked by submarine and is probably a plesiosaur. The curriculum also claims that a Japanese fishing boat caught a dinosaur.
Since Jindal is trying to portray himself as the intellectual savior of the GOP – and thanks to politicians like Rick Perry and Todd Akin it’s a pretty low bar – maybe he can start by repealing the laws that encourage the teaching of pseudo-science in Louisiana’s schools.