“Wanted to let you know that Tennessee schools received a “D” in science… ‘because of lack of teaching evolution and natural selection’. Hope you can help turn that “D” into an “F”, wrote one of our colleagues.
It seems the state of Tennessee has done that without our help.
Over the last few years a number of state governments in the USA have proposed laws that have been proclaimed by organisations such as American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) as “anti-evolution bills.” (AAAS Policy Alerts, 24 Jan 2011, 7 Feb 2011, 24 Feb 2011) However, if you read the actual wording of these laws you will sees they are not against the teaching of evolution, but for the proper scientific analysis of it. The most recent of these, from the state of Tennessee reads:
“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.”
Examples of “controversial issues” are listed as “some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning”.
The Bill goes on to say: “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.”
The Bill also states the education authorities must not prohibit teachers 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.”Tennessee House Bill (HB) 368/Senate Bill 893. PDF copy available here.
This Bill was passed by both houses of the Tennessee state legislature and, despite a petition to veto it, the State Governor allowed it to pass into law on 10 April 2012.
By calling these laws anti-evolution, or even anti-science, the leaders of AAAS and other secular education organisations seem to have forgotten that understanding, analysing, critiquing and reviewing are the very processes that advance science and teach students how to think about scientific ideas. To permit such activities in classrooms is not “anti” any idea. Perhaps the secular science and education groups that condemn these laws are revealing their fear that the theory of evolution might not stand up to honest scrutiny if the normal processes of scientific analysis were allowed. If evolution was such a good scientific theory it would stand up to any honest criticism, and not need politicians and lawyers to protect it.
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