Not trying to get on a rant here, but...
WTF are they thinking? Oh, man... I could go off something fierce right about now!
They should offer classes at school (K-12) that only encompass scientific facts, like evolution for example. Religion does not offer any scientific fact that would be viable for public school consumption; it would just act to confuse kids who are already confused enough with figuring themselves out... Okay, I'll stop now... Ars has this...
Each year, January brings a new legislative calendar and, with it, a new round of bills that attempt to interfere with science education. Typically, these bills target evolution and/or climate change and are based on boilerplate text, but each year brings some intriguing variations on the theme. This year's haul is impressive with several states already active.
Missouri saw the introduction of House Bill 486, which specifically targets evolution education. This is a typical "strengths and weaknesses" bill, much like the Louisiana Science Education Act. These bills prohibit any educational authority from the state level down from interfering with teachers who want to make spurious attacks on the science of evolution. In this case, teachers will be allowed to "review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution," and they're encouraged to "respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution."
Rest assured, the controversies we have regarding these subjects are not scientific, and therefore they do not belong in a science class. And although the wording doesn't indicate as such, the bills are intended to provide legal cover for teachers who bring in material that promotes creationist arguments, such as textbooks and other literature produced by creationist movements.
What happens when a group dedicated to the overthrow of modern science writes …
The Missouri bill was introduced by Andrew Koenig (R-District 99). According to the National Center for Science Education, Koenig has been introducing similar bills since 2011; all have failed, including ones that would specifically promote intelligent design.
Many bills that have followed this text have also targeted climate change and human cloning (which is odd, as it's the only technique to ever appear on the list). Indiana has seen an unusual twist in a bill with nearly identical wording that has been introduced, but in this case itonly targets human cloning. Again, the people who are introducing this bill (Jeff Raatz [R-District 27] and Dennis Kruse [R-District 14]) have a long history of introducing legislation that targets evolution education. Why they've dropped that in favor of cloning isn't clear.
A further variant has been introduced in the Oklahoma Senate, where Bill 665 uses the same boilerplate language but doesn't bother to mention any specific scientific concepts that might be considered controversial. It's not clear, given the long written record we now have of these bills, whether its author thinks that no one will be able to identify its intent. If there was any confusion on this matter, said author—Josh Brecheen (R-District 6)—introduced past bills that did specifically label evolution as controversial.
Montana is also about to join in the inanity, with a draft bill in progress that takes the opposite approach, broadening the number of controversial topics so that the list is "including but not limited to biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries." Again, it provides legal cover for teachers who want to introduce spurious information, but this time it invites complete chaos by stating "all theories and viewpoints must be allowed if true critical thinking is to be encouraged." Given that there are about as many points of view on these topics as there are citizens of Montana, it's not clear what teachers could possibly do with such instructions.
Again, the legislator behind the bill, Clayton Fiscus (R-District 46), introduced nearly identical legislation last year.
There is some good news coming out of the legislatures, however. Last year, the Wyoming legislature blocked even the consideration of Next Generation Science Standards because of their climate change content, which didn't go over well with some coal supporters in the state House. A bill that now removes the block is advancing through the state House of Representatives.
Reality, legislator argues, needs to comport with the state's economic interests.
In West Virginia, the state school board had accepted the Next Generation Science Standards, but it decided to add confusing language on the topic of climate change. Now after the ensuing controversy, the board appears ready toreverse direction. Unlike in the cases mentioned above, public embarrassment actually seems to have been effective.
Meanwhile, from Wisconsin comes the bizarre story of a state treasurer who's picked a fight with the Board of Commissioners of Public Land, which helps fund school libraries in the state. The state treasurer has complained to the Board about everything from its letterhead to its staffing, but among the issues that he'd like to see addressed is the removal of any references to climate change from the Board's website.