Tennessee passed an idiotic bill that would allow non-science to be taught in public school science classes. Tomorrow at 2:00pm at the Capitol building in Nashville there will be a rally to oppose it. If you’re in Tennessee, you should be there.
Give Gov. Haslam an earful – he deserves it. Christina did a good post on the passage of the bill, but I’d like to add some things.
Haslam released this statement today:
“I have reviewed the final language of HB 368/SB 893 and assessed the legislation’s impact. I have also evaluated the concerns that have been raised by the bill. I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.
If it doesn’t change anything, why is it there? Is there any message we can take away from this other than, “Hey guys. We really don’t have shit else to do here at the Capitol so we’ve started throwing together bills that don’t do shit. Gotta do something to earn our salaries, amirite?”
Of course it changes things. From the bill…
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:
SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 10, is amended by
adding the following as a new, appropriately designated section:
(a) 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.
(d) Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary
school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any
public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any
teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand,
analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific
weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
Christina put it beautifully.
Hm. Teachers already have the ability to discuss science in a scientific way, and already have the ability to teach scientific information.
Evolution and climate change are not scientifically controversial. They are politically and religiously controversial. Hence the only way a science teacher can discuss such “controversy” would be by bringing up religious objections, political objections, or religious/political objections cloaked in scientific-sounding language.
And what are these weaknesses to evolution? Why are the supporters of this bill giving precedence to expressing these supposed weaknesses to pre-college students in high school biology classes over, say, fucking biologists? Doesn’t that seem a bit…strange?
I’m sorry. I said “strange.” What I meant to say was “skeezy as all hell.”
But here’s what really drives me up a tree about Gov. Haslam on this issue. In his statement, Haslam said…
“The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by a three-to-one margin, but good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion. My concern is that this bill has not met this objective. For that reason, I will not sign the bill but will allow it to become law without my signature.”
“This bill is not good legislation…best let it become law.” Wrong answer. Why have a “checks and balances” form of government if one branch doesn’t check and balance, but just says, “Gee, that isn’t good, but go ahead anyway.”
If only there was a third option, like, say, send it back and tell the to fix it! You’re the governor for fuck’s sake.
Sadly, in Tennessee a gubernatorial veto is pretty impotent.
Tennessee’s Constitution makes it easy for the General Assembly to override the governor’s veto. Members need only a majority vote in each chamber, which amounts to backing from 50 members of the House and 17 members in the Senate. That’s the same number of votes needed to pass a bill.
Most state’s legislatures need a two-thirds or three-fifths vote to override a veto. Only six states require a simple majority to trump the governor; the others are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (pdf Table 98.6-22).
Gov. Haslam has already said this bill doesn’t change anything. At least we can say that it brings confusion, by his own assertion which, frankly, is pretty much what creationism does anyway.
The ability of the legislature to override a gubernatorial veto by voting in the exact same numbers as when they passed the bill makes no sense at all. It’s not really a system of checks and balances if one of the branches lacks any serious ability to check the others, but it’s the South so what can you do?
Even if a veto could be overridden, Haslam would have still sent the message that the bill was lousy. If good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion and this bill didn’t accomplish that, you send it back, chastise your legislature publicly for sending you a bad bill, and tell them to make this bill into good legislation. Governors who allow bad legislation to become law, especially after they’ve acknowledged it as such, are not good governors.
Yes, the legislature could override you, but that’s no reason not to send it back if you think it sucks. Yeah, you don’t win every battle you fight, but you don’t just roll over and play dead because you might lose. Allowing the bill to pass if you think it’s meaningless and not good (both of which Gov. Haslam has said) reeks of sketchiness.
But a veto also may not have been in vain. Previous Governor Phil Bredesen vetoed eight bills, only three of which were overridden by the legislature.
If allowing the bill to become law by not signing it accomplishes the same thing as signing it, you really haven’t done much (except give yourself an out in the minds of the gullible if this measure gets slashed to ribbons in court). It has received your endorsement either way and it’s insulting to us that you pretend it hasn’t.
And to top it off, he’s treating his constituents like they are too slow on the uptake to put two and two together. It always amazes me how politicians can cater to anti-intellectualism and even treat their voters like idiots and still manage to get elected. Ah, America.