A Missouri House Committee has just approved for consideration of the House an Academic Freedom Bill drafted with the aid of the Discovery Institute.
The bill has a nice twist to it in that it prohibits the consideration of any boundary or difference between religion and non-religion in regards to what to teach or how to teach it. In other words, the bill requires that state agencies, school administrators, and teachers ignore the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America in deference to state law. Therefore, challenges to this particular form of the bill would be a challenge to state's rights.
Such a challenge would result in the bill being struck down as clearly as any with any other challenge, but it could take longer. If there are sympathetic judges in the right places, a school district that obeys the higher level Federal law (or a teacher or a particular school) could be forced into the court system for one or two rounds of slash and burn lawyering.
The best way to fight this sort of thing? Probably to make sure that individual legislators who introduce such bills, and who chair the committees that approve them, and so on, are held accountable for the legal fees that will be paid by cash-strapped school districts. Of course, such elected officials can't be held accountable in any pecuniary way, but they can be made to pay by being tossed out of office by disgruntled taxpayers.
The stamp of the Discovery Institute is obvious in both the wording of the bill and the fact that not a single news outlet has coverage of this event, but it is covered on the DI web site. They really ought to be a bit more discrete as I'm sure they will later want to deny involvement in this particular effort (at about the time the legal bills come in).
Here is the main text of the bill:
The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, superintendents 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, including such subjects as the teaching of biological and chemical evolution. Such educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where 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 theories of biological and chemical evolution.
...Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, superintendent of schools, or school system administrator, nor 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 theories of biological or chemical evolution
....This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.
This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.
I like that they threw that in knowing that there is no way that will/can be enforced on a classroom by classroom basis as some lame attempt to cover their ass knowing full well (and knowing we know full well) what it means. They open the door for religious doctrine attacking science as "critique" above then drop the little tidbit "OH NO. We don't mean you can promote any religious ideas". Do they think they're fooling anyone or do they know it doesn't matter because the ones who will vote it in are in the know and on their side and the public is just too lazy to care?
What is chemical evolution?
It's nice of them to falsely assume that there are scientific controversies that would be understood by K-12 students. They must do a very good job of science education in Missouri to allow the students to be so advanced that they and their teachers actually understand the scientific controversies that exist.
If they are serious about limiting it to scientific information, the bill would completely destroy the attempts of ID/Creationists to 'teach the controversy'.
I don't understand why the local universities aren't protesting this. An 'education' of this sort certainly doesn't qualify students to study science at the college level. This is equivalent to California refusing to accept homeschoolers who used Bob Jones science books. Why don't the universities take a stand and tell the schools how much damage they are doing? Why don't they come out and say that they won't accept this as a science class when students apply for college?
This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine
So this only works if ID is actually considered science, while in Expelled and elsewhere the DI seems to be retreating from that position, and becoming more overtly religious. I don't understand the strategy here.
The full text [see link to PDF above] of the bill tells us that this was introduced on April Fool's Day. How appropriate.
I'm not certain why the universities aren't protesting. I would think that Washington University, in particular, would want to complain since they are working very hard to be considered one of the best in the country. They would hardly want to start losing their home state pool of top achievers. The state schools may have a more political problem.
Of course, if you read the text very carefully and apply it tightly, the DI has written a bill that locks their nonsense out of schools, since they have no evidence and they have no real scientific controversy to introduce.
LOL. Now you see why I (as a Missouri resident) sometimes wish my wife and I had stuck by our guns and home schooled our daughter! We're going to have to let her hang out with the employees of the MIssouri schools for seven hours a day, then spend our evenings correcting their indoctrination. *sigh*.
Makes me embarrassed to be Missourian, but thanks anyway for making people aware of this kind of Midwestern stupidity.
Oh, Steve, it's not confined to the Midwest. Check Florida and Louisiana as well.
"The bill has a nice twist to it in that it prohibits the consideration of any boundary or difference between religion and non-religion in regards to what to teach or how to teach it."
Can you explain this further? I'm not clear on how you get this from the bill itself. The closest I can see is...
this section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine
And that to me just reads as an ID creationist Orwellian assertion "Oh, and this isn't about religion, because we say it isn't". But I don't see how it says "No one is allowed to decide the difference between religion and non-religion".
Am I missing something?
this section shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion. states that this bill does not cross the establishment clause prohibition a priori.
Therefore educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. would not be a violation of the establishment clause, according to the state law. So the question is not simply is the establishment clause being violated when the state sends out a sticker to put in the textbook disclaiming the validity of Darwinian Evolution. According to this state law it will not be.
Bear in mind that I'm not arguing in favor of this, or for the logical potential of this wording. Just trying to explain it. One does not put a paragraph in a bill because it sounds nice. There is a reason. that has to do with the application of a bill in either regulatory instruments or in court challenges for every word we see there.
Greg, the .pdf link flaked out.
Very simply, the legislation is misleading in implying that the science curriculum is addressing scientific controversies. It isn't. The K-12 science curriculum is addressing fairly simple, well-settled science, including evolution. The implication that there is a scientific controversy is false, but necessary to allow the 'teach the controversy' lie to take hold.
This is nothing but the 'wedge' strategy from the usual cast of characters at DI and ICS. My son is in the 6th grade and has a fantastic science teacher this year. He is learning the basics of speciation and evolutionary theory. And the IDiots (my term for thinly veiled creationist whack jobs) want to ruin his education. It makes me ill...
Link is de-flaked!
I guess it's time to write yet another letter to my Missouri representative and senator. I think I will ask them what weaknesses they hope to have covered for K-12 students that haven't been thoroughly addressed by the scientific community.
Who is going to pay my legal bills as a parent in the state who will have to fight this crap.