Oooooooh-klahoma where the science class is pick and choose…. Well, the Sooner state is at it again. The latest in their continuing series of “academic freedom” bills is HB 1674, brought to you by Gus Blackwell, a GOP state representative who spent 20 years working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. But his bill is not about religion, how could you even think that? No, according to Blackwell, it’s all about 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. A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations.”
To translate from the GOP-ese, the bill allows students to make faith-based claims in their science homework and tests without being graded appropriately. It would forbid teachers from giving a student an “F” on such papers. In plain-speak, it dictates to science teachers what they can accept as legitimate learning in their classroom. The bill is being considered by the Oklahoma Common Education committee (oh, that is such an easy mark, isn’t it?) today.
This isn’t the first bill introduced in the Oklahoma legislature that seeks to water down scientific education in that state. And they sure are persistent about it: there have been eight different anti-evolution bills introduced in the Oklahoma legislature since 2004. Other states are joining in the fun, too. In Missouri, there’s a new bill that requires teachers and textbooks to include creationism in their curriculum. You may facepalm now, I’ll wait.
But it gets better (or worse for we reasonable folk)… there is a companion bill to HB 1674 in the state Senate: SB 758 would protect students, teachers and schools from being penalized for subscribing to alternate theories. I’m not sure what they mean by “penalized” here, maybe getting an “F” for maintaining despite overwhelming evidence that evolution is false?
Eric Meikle, a man with what must be one of the most frustrating jobs in the country, education project director at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), says that the biggest problem with these bills is that they are open-ended and easily misinterpreted. But since they are really only code for the anti-science crowd there isn’t much he can do other than maintain his stance that we can’t teach kids every dumbass (my word, not his) theory since time began.
The one bright spot in the bill is that students can still be tested on the things they don’t believe in. But only, says Blackwell, because they need to learn about them to find their weaknesses. And that much is fine, in my opinion. Science is about questioning and, in a truly open academic setting, all ideas should be examined, if only to debunk them. But for these religious nuts, the opposite is true. While they expect to be able to punish dissenters to their beliefs, they go bananas if theirs should be questioned in public schools and forums. But what does it say about those beliefs when adherents feel compelled to make laws protecting them? If something can’t stand up to scrutiny then it should be tossed onto the scrapheap of science. Students shouldn’t be wasting their time – and our tax money – on religious education. And, really, that’s all this bill is… a way to make room in the public schools for belittling science and coddling ignorance, all in the name of faith.
T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…