A new round of bills is making its way through Republican controlled legislatures with almost identical language that will allow teachers to “teach the controversy” about accepted scientific facts. Tennessee just passed theirs and now Oklahoma is next up to the plate of scientific illiteracy.
The bill, adorably called the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” purports to expand scientific freedom and inquiry but what it really does is make it impossible for proper teachers to dismiss unscientific (read as religious) “arguments” and to allow unethical charlatans posing as teachers to undermine actual science to further a religious agenda. The idea is 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.” The problem is that “opinion” has no place in the science classroom. It can be my “opinion” that the moon is made out of green cheese, that has no bearing whatsoever on the fact that it is made of rock.
Here’s my favorite part:
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.
Translation: If a student answers every question on an evolution test wrong because they believe that God made man from clay, you, the teacher, cannot give them a failing grade because that might be construed as “punishment.”
And just to deliver the final blow to actual science, there’s this disingenuous bit:
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.
Translation: Even if you are teaching the material correctly, you can be accused of promoting a set of non-beliefs or nonreligious “doctrines” by skipping over Creationism. The end result is that real teachers will avoid the topic completely as well as the other “controversial” issues named in the bill, specifically “the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” Why human cloning? It’s a ringer. Whether it can be done isn’t the question but rather if it should be done; a perfectly legitimate debate to have, unlike like the rest. Cloning is just there to provide cover. Further, the disturbingly large amount of teachers that already teach Creationism will be emboldened to attack established science in order to push their religious worldview.
The attack on Climate Change science is particularly egregious because, unlike evolution, it’s not even based on religion. The GOP has stepped up its game. Now, not only do we have to watch for religion creeping into our schools but the right corporate agenda as well. Republicans truly have no shame and not an ounce of concern for our children’s education.
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