That olde tyme religion

Via here, this is fun (well, as usual, it would be if the sponsers of the bill were laughed out of the legislature):

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.

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. 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.

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. 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.

I would guess that this will have little impact in most classrooms if it passes (it has passed out of committee), because it will be impossible for a student to back up any other position than the accepted scientific one (there’s a lot of evidence that evolution is true while there is none to support creationism, so any paper written that says creationism explains life on Earth should get a failing grade since it will have no real supporting evidence). In fact, it very well backfire in some classrooms–a student would be able to question whether evolution (or other ‘controversial’ theories) is true, but the teacher could then talk about the overwhelming evidence that it is true and the complete lack of evidence that creationism has. The problem is that there are probably some teachers that will use this to make it seem like the evidence for evolution is weak–as long as they teach the ideas needed for the tests, they would be allowed to say that they don’t believe in evolution and play up supposed weaknesses.

I love this bit at the end of the bill:

It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.

If students and teachers aren’t allowed to say things like evolution are wrong, there’s going to be war and plagues I guess.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. vishumenon
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 13:33:45

    A decade ago, my grandson studied in class 2 in a Christian international school in Dhaka. He was asked to do a project on any animal of his choice. He chose Dynasaurus, I downloaded a picture of one from the intenet and printed it for him. He wrote what he knew about the extinct animal. He carried it proudly to school. The teacher tore his project to shreds. “There never was such an animal,” he said. “No reference to such a beast in the Bible”.

    You wouldn’t believe such a thing happened. The teacher was a sauve, well-spoken British gentleman.


  2. Tracy Goodwin
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 14:19:04

    The biggest problem with this is that the presentation of a controversy in science on certain topics like evolution is simply not true. But by presenting it as a controversy they are able to convince some that it is controversial and thus dissuade them from accepting the science behind it. Just look at how presenting evolution as a controversy has played out in public in general. Even 10yrs ago there was little perception that evolution was controversial and most people believed in it, even if they incorporated their religion into it. Though now not as many people accept evolution despite the evidence being even stronger than a decade ago, the big difference is that they hear it is a controversy and they don’t understand it well enough to reject that. So they accept that evolution is controversial and that erodes their acceptance of it.

    The authors of bills like this want to continue that process but instead of focusing on the public as a whole they want to persuade the youth. So they catch them in school and try to turn science into a controversy before the students fully understand the scientific method and the evidence behind the theories.


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