A bill you might object to in TN just became a law.
Gov. Bill Haslam has declined to sign Tennessee’s so-called evolution bill, which protects teachers who criticize evolution, global warming and other scientific theories.
The Republican governor did not veto the measure or sign it, but instead let it become law without his signature. He said earlier that he would probably sign it.
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.
“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.”
I don’t get why you would allow a bill to become law if the bill does not meet the goal of bringing clarity rather than confusion.
Here is the text of the bill, HB368:
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.
(b) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school
governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public
elementary and secondary 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
(c) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school
governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public- 2 – 00242666
elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist
teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as 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 covered in the course being
(d) Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary(e) This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not
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.
be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination
for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination
for or against religion or non-religion.
SECTION 2. By no later than the start of the 2011-2012 school term, the department of
education shall notify all directors of schools of the provisions of this act. Each director shall
notify all employees within the director’s school system of the provisions of this act.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.
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.
Any “controversy” is nonscientific, unless of course the bill means to allow teachers to explore the controversy of errors in genome sequencing studies or something like that.
I doubt it. Considering how much the Discovery Institute loves the bill, and how the text is modeled after Discovery Institute’s model academic freedom statute on evolution and Louisiana Academic Freedom Act, clearly the bill is not about protecting the rights of teachers to talk about controversies within the unified theory of biology, but to talk about evolution vs intelligent design. The bill was written by David Fowler of the Family Action Counsel of Tennessee and Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture.
First it was “god did it”, then it was “creationism”, then, “intelligent design” and now it’s “academic freedom”.
Becky Ashe, the president of the Tennessee Science Teachers Association and the executive director of curriculum and instruction for Knox County Schools, says there is no discrimination. She says in her decade in the central office, no teacher has been disciplined for mentioning alternative beliefs to evolution in the classroom, and that teachers are instructed to make sure students feel like their beliefs are valued if they bring it up.
Academic sounds good, and freedom we all love, but no. Teachers should not be free to teach nonscience as science, or to present nonscience as science. I’m surprised we don’t have qi practitioners legislating academic freedom to teach their theories of “life force” in classrooms in opposition to medical science – asking that we show the “strengths and weaknesses” of medicine and presenting qi as an alternate understanding of human biological systems.