Archive for April 15, 2012
On Tuesday, April 10, Tennessee HB368/SB893 became law without the signature of Republican Governor Bill Haslam. The bill passed easily, 72–23 in the Tennessee State House and 25–8 in the Senate.
The bill purportedly protects teachers who might somehow face disciplinary action for teaching (for example) intelligent design or denial of anthropogenic climate change. The fact that no teacher has ever been disciplined for teaching these concepts troubles the sponsors of the legislation not a whit. Just as some elements fight a voter fraud problem that doesn’t exist, this bill creates the impression of a “problem” where none exists.
According to the bill,
The general assembly finds 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, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy; and
(3) Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.
In point of fact, only about 28 percent of high school biology teachers surveyed by the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers teach evidence for evolution at all. Another 13 percent teach creationism or intelligent design in a favorable way.
Some intelligent design proponents claim that teachers have been disciplined for teaching intelligent design, but a quick read of cases here, here and here makes it clear that it wasn’t the teaching of intelligent design, but some other crazy behavior or simple misunderstandings, that were the root problems in each case.
Not surprisingly, 60 percent of high school teachers totally avoid this keystone subject entirely, which is exactly what bills like this intend. While wrapping themselves in the flag and waving a cross, these legislators purport to protect the rights of teachers while in reality quashing discussion of scientific topics.
Not surprisingly, the bill was not authored by Tennessee legislators or their assistants. Rather, the bill was crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that crafts “model” legislation that uniformly advances an anti-science, conservative, know-nothing agenda. (more…)