Tennessee

Tennessee’s House passed this disingenuous piece of legislation the other day. They’re not to the first to try this sort of thing and they probably won’t be the last.

HB0368
00242666
-1-
HOUSE BILL 368
By Dunn
AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49,
Chapter 6, Part 10, relative to teaching scientific
subjects in elementary schools.

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
controversial issues.

(c) 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 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
taught.

(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.

(e) This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not
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.

Comments

  1. #1 Timberwoof
    April 8, 2011

    I’m not sure what this is intended to do. It’s mighty subtle.

    Teachers are permitted to teach critical thinking; teachers are encouraged to teach the controversy; the government shall not prohibit analyzing scientific theories; this protects scientific teaching but does not permit discrimination against religious or nonreligious doctrines.

    Creationism is a religious doctrine; Intelligent Design is (claimed to be) a nonreligious doctrine. The bill neither promotes nor encourages discrimination against them. Do they mean discrimination in the sense of, “Waaaaaa! He’s discriminatin me!” or in the sense of deciding between things, as “a person of discriminating taste”?

    The ultimate result of open-minded rational examination of creationism and intelligent design is to discriminate against them. Is such discrimination unjust?

    A curriculum that presents Creationism and Intelligent Design along with theories that have actual scientific basis, and presents the strengths and weaknesses of each, and is heavily laden with the teacher’s opinion on how things should be would not be against this law.

    I went to high school in Tennessee. The biology teacher avoided evolution. The history and civics teachers were Republicans who presented everything with a Republican slant, and issues of Republican ideology were to be repeated as facts on examinations. I’m certain that had Reaganomics been invented, it would have been taught as fact.

    So I’m not convinced that this bill is anything but lawyer-speak for “Teach the controversy, and don’t discriminate against creationism.”

  2. #2 Clam
    April 9, 2011

    Europe entered the Dark Ages about 1700 years ago and came out of them about 700 years later. Why is the U.S. so late in entering them?

  3. #3 Lassi Hippeläinen
    April 9, 2011

    By the time Europe was getting out of the dark ages, the muslims were entering them. Now they seem to be getting out, so this time it is the U.S. entering them.

  4. #4 dean
    April 9, 2011

    “I’m not sure what this is intended to do. It’s mighty subtle.”

    I don’t think so. It’s designed to protect “teachers” who tell students that creationism is on equal footing with evolution, and would probably protect those who tell students modern theories of cosmology are full of crap, etc.

    Creationism (call it ID if you will) should be discriminated against in a science class – it isn’t science. (I am not implying Timberwolf claims it is.)

  5. #5 fancyflyer
    April 9, 2011

    So does this mean the teachers are free to teach to the controversy by informing their pupils about ID and telling them that it is considered by scientists to be crap? Then they are free to teach evolution and inform the students that their church folks consider that to be crap. Is that what the bozos in Nashville want? Those poor kids will learn only that (1) grown-ups are idiots, (2) scientific truth is negotiable and (3) choosing to go with creationism makes for an easier study because there are fewer details.

  6. #6 travc
    April 10, 2011

    Funny (though not in a ha-ha sense) that AGW is now routinely put alongside evolution in this sort of crap. I have no sympathy for creationists, but I understand the deep psychological root of some people’s trouble with it. Denial of global warming is all about short-term protection/gain for monied interests though.

    Then again the great GOP “coalition” of movement conservatism is the big-money-boys holding the leash of the religious demagogues (and other sorts of authoritarian ‘leaders’). The only way this makes sense is with respect to the common attributes of their political power base… an eager willingness to believe BS.

  7. #7 OgreMkV
    April 12, 2011

    Yeah, these bills are pretty ingenius.

    1) Teachers should be teaching critical thinking and exploration of these kinds of subjects anyway. So in that respect the bill is a complete waste of paper.

    2) ID is still creationism and it’s still illegal to teach in public schools using federal or state money. No law can change that. This is setting up a Dover Trap for some poor unsuspecting school district. So in that sense, it’s a complete waste of paper.

    3) Creationist teachers will teach creationism in spite of it being against the law anyway. They don’t care about the law or what is actually true, they teach their ideology to impressionable minds and would do it with or without legal sanction. So, in that sense, the law is a complete waste of paper.

    Tennessee just wasted a heck of a lot of time and money on something that is meaningless in the real world.

  8. #8 MacTurk
    April 19, 2011

    I go on holiday for two weeks, and the Tennessee legislature decides to take itself back to the Dark Ages.

    Hmmm, on reflection, there may not be any connection between these two events.

    However, when it comes comes to producing ignorant silliness, the USA is still a contender for first in the world.

    USA, USA, USA!!!

    I am now wiping tears of laughter from my eyes.

  9. #9 elektro gitar
    May 21, 2011

    Why is the U.S. so late in entering them?

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