Indiana State Senator Pushes Badly-Misnamed ‘Truth in Education’ Bill

The battle to march the education of American children toward the 19th century continues. In Indiana, state senator Dennis Kruse is going to push what he is dubbing a “truth in education” bill.

As he puts it:

“If a student thinks something isn’t true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true.”

State Senator Dennis Kruse (Via IndyStar.com)

Kruse isn’t disguising his true intentions here. A previous bill he promoted that would have allowed the teaching of “alternatives” to evolution in public classrooms died a painful death in the Indiana legislature. The bill was said to be “inviting lawsuits” which is the way politicians tell Creationists “Look, I’m totally on your side on this, but those damn activist judges will shut this thing down for sure.”

The advocates of Creationism have suffered defeat after defeat in the courts. They initially promoted Creationism in the classroom outright. When this was ruled unconstitutional, they switched the term to “Intelligent Design,” but covered their tracks so badly that they were again slapped down in the courts.

These days, Creationists are more cautious in their strategies. They are attempting to sneak Creationism into the classroom under the guise of “academic freedom” and “critical thought,” covering themselves in the mantle of the highest ideals of academia in order to try and undermine it.

The law Kruse is promoting is modelled on a a Tennessee law:

The Tennessee bill, which became law in April without Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature, encouraged students to question scientific theories and protects teachers from punishment if they teach Creationism.

The law states that “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.”

Students, the law states, should be encouraged “to explore scientific questions” and to respect differences of opinion, while teachers should not be prohibited from helping students analyze and criticize the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories.

According to the tireless warriors at the National Center for Science Education, the law traces its origins to the Discovery Institute, a hotbed of Intelligent Design. The law is meant to protect teachers if they bring up Creationism, as well as encouraging students to disrupt classes if they disagree with the material being taught.

Of course, students can already ask teachers for clarification or more information on a given subject, and a good teacher will make a good faith attempt to provide that, but this law isn’t about that.

When you tell a teacher they have to provide “research” proving any given point on a science lesson, you have essentially given students free reign to totally shut down a classroom, particularly when you’re likely to get nonsensical questions like “Well, how do you prove that something can come from nothing?”

The real point of this bill is intimidation of science-based teachers and encouragement of Creationist ones. Potentially more harmful than the Creationist teachers who are teaching biology (this is like having an Amish person teach aeronautical engineering) are the greater numbers of teachers who are not Creationists but who don’t want the hassle of angry parents, rebellious students, and non-supportive administrations. Bills like these send the message that such teachers are so on their own that their state governments are explicitly on the non-science side. So maybe you can skip the whole evolution thing this year and save yourself the heartburn, eh? The result will be students who are less and less exposed to one of the central cores of biology.

There is a sliver of good news, though.

It isn’t clear that this bill will go forward:

Rep. Bob Behning, the Indianapolis Republican who is chairman of the House Education Committee, said he wouldn’t prejudge whether he’d give this bill a hearing if it makes it through the Senate. But he said that “at this point” he’d probably be disinclined to pursue it, saying it seemed too broad and vague.

“I don’t want to do something that’s going to burden schools to the point where they’re going to spend their lives trying to validate what is assumed to be true,” Behning said.

Here’s hoping sanity prevails in Indiana, and they can get to work promoting, not undermining, the education of their students.

About Claudia

I'm a lifelong atheist and a molecular biologist with a passion for science and a passionate opposition to its enemies.

  • Achron Timeless

    This is an asinine bit of attempted lawmaking. If you’re in elementary, middle, or highschool you don’t know enough to be able to question some things.

    *raises hand* Prove matter exists, or else I don’t have to do anything in your class.

    Really? It would turn schools into a circus. I’d have abused this for all it was worth if I had a big test coming up and had forgotten to study.

    • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Rev. Ouabache

       If I had done that to one of my physics professors he would have thrown an eraser squarely at my head.

    • Jerrylyoungii

      I live in Missouri and Amendment 2 was just passed.  Basically it is a “reiteration of religious freedoms” already set out in the Constitution.  What it really does is states that if a student disagrees with a topic covered in a course, such as evolution, they are exempt from it.  I cannot wait to see how this goes.  
      https://www.au.org/MOAmendment2
      http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Missouri_Public_Prayer_Amendment,_Amendment_2_(August_2012)

      • Achron Timeless

        Well, skimmed the language of the bill and came away with an idea. They made sure to say that you cannot in any way be stopped from expressing your religion. We just have to get some of those pool noodles (preferably yellow) and whack people on the head that are spouting bullshit like this. It’s an expression of religion, to touch you with his (pool)noodly appendage!

        • Jerrylyoungii

          A lot of that amendment bothers me.  If you have Christian students, they can openly pray before any event like a test or lunch, and no one can ask them to stop disrupting them.  Students that aren’t Christian can and should be highly offended.  Muslim students have salat that would occur twice during the school day, so they have to get on the floor and face the promised land and pray during class.  Kids could concoct religions and say that learning from a woman (just as it is in the Bible) is against their religion.  Really there isn’t a thing that could be done about it.  Who suffers most is Atheists and the education system.  Just ignorance in our nation.  This to me is less despicable than Louisiana using the Loch Ness Monster as cause for teaching Creationism in public schooling.  There is a reason our test scores rival that of third world countries.  We are doing it to ourselves.  Maybe on purpose to keep the sheeple more manageable.

          • Achron Timeless

            I often wonder if it’s on purpose too, but frankly I don’t give them enough credit to engineer an intentional dumbing down of society so it’ll be easier to control. They couldn’t pull it off on purpose.

            If anything, it’s probably that they imagine anyone aspiring to anything beyond where they are. Oh sure they want to go to a surgeon when they’re having problems with their heart, or have an engineer design their next smart phone, but they don’t have the slightest idea where people like that come from. They just exist, at least in their minds. So, they make education cuts, insist on myths being taught as facts, and a myriad of other events of applied moronics because they are too stupid to realize the end result if they succeed.

            Shakespeare had it wrong. We don’t get rid of the lawyers.. we get rid of the politicians.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    I commented on this topic earlier on Love, Joy, Feminism, and said something similar to Achron. It seems like it would be an easy way for kids to disrupt classes to the point where no teaching could take place. “How do you know 2+2=4? Can you show us a paper proving it?” Smart, obnoxious kids could insist that the teacher justify everything that comes out of his or her mouth, and thus bring the class to an absolute standstill. 

    • Jim Thompson

      Perhaps this could be expanded to preachers and politicians?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    This would be great in math classes. “Teacher, you say 1+1=2. Please produce some research supporting that assertion.”
     

    • viaten

       A teacher could point a student here: http://blog.plover.com/math/PM.html
      The student probably wouldn’t be asking a question like that again.

      • drakvl

        Or metamath.org.

    • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

      The Principia Mathematica rather famously takes 379 pages of proofs before arriving at the conclusion that “1+1=2″

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principia_Mathematica

      Coauthor is famous atheist Bertie Russell.

  • CompanionCube

    This could also backfire on the creationists – the teacher says “The Bible tells us that…” and a student says “Is there any research to support that?”  as long as the kid can stand firm on not allowing the bible to be counted as evidence… win!

    • Mario Strada

      Exactly. They don’t understand that it cuts both ways and you’ll get kids asking their professors to produce evidence for anything they teach to stall for time.

  • C Peterson

    I’m all for kids questioning their teachers. And I’m all for teachers having to be able to justify what they are teaching on rational grounds, and being able to tell students why they are wrong (when they are). A teacher who can’t do this should be fired.

    All of this is just the definition of good teaching and good education. No special laws are needed!

    • Mommiest

       Actually, I think a good teacher would point the student to a reference where they could get additional facts for themselves: “You want to know more about this? GREAT! Read this.”

      It would give students the information they are requesting, and give them a chance to learn how to do research on their own. They could even allow students to put together reports for extra credit.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Hmmm. Can the law also mandate that churches must encourage the same demands for evidence to back their teachings?? :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-De-Fleuriot/611844223 Mike De Fleuriot

    “These days, Creationists are more cautious in their strategies.”

    Really? I think everyone knows what they are try to do and why. Any idea that is not evolution can now be booted to the curb, as not being evolution. What is the problem with this?

  • SeekerLancer

    With how many times the courts have slammed down stuff like this I can’t believe we’re still fighting this battle, but here we are. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so terrible.

  • FCA

    So is this what the science classrooms in Indiana are going to look like now?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3GBTUrwbgvw

  • Dan

    I was a science teacher for 20 years but quit last year in part from the inability to teach without feeling gagged.  I did discuss the evidences for natural selection and never just said it is this way because I said so, I was a Paleontology major in Grad school, so maybe I have an edge on this topic over some teachers.  I was questioned all the time by creationists when in SC, and I had no problem with them criticizing my beliefs, as I generally has answers to their questions.  What I couldn’t do, is then turn the argument to the next obvious step, which is why did they believe what they did and what evidence did they have?  I was tired of these one sided debates which just made them seem untouchable.  Got in hot water on more than one occasion just by teaching the most important unifying concept in the life sciences.  I’m painting wildlife now and enjoying nature w/o the headaches.

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    Excuse me, history teacher… can you come up with some kind of research to support that anything existed before last Thursday?


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