NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2012/05/18
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, The credit-for-creationism scheme in Alabama is dead, while a new report discusses the public's acceptance of climate change and the first draft of the Next Generation Science Standards is open for public comment.
CREDIT-FOR-CREATIONISM SCHEME DIES IN ALABAMA When the last day of the regular legislative session of the Alabama legislature ended on May 16, 2012, a bill that would have established a credit-for-creationism scheme died. House Bill 133, if enacted, would have authorized "local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for high school students." Its sponsor, Blaine Galliher (R-District 30), explained his purpose in introducing the bill to WAFF in Huntsville, Alabama (February 5, 2012): "They teach evolution in the textbooks, but they don't teach a creation theory ... Creation has just as much right to be taught in the school system as evolution does and I think this is simply providing the vehicle to do that." The Birmingham News (February 17, 2012) later reported that Galliher introduced the bill at the behest of Joseph Kennedy, a former teacher who "was fired in 1980 for reading the Bible and teaching creationism at Spring Garden Elementary School when parents of the public school sixth-grade students objected and he refused to stop." Kennedy indicated that he and his supporters were poised to offer a course on creationism in their local school district, using a Bible with notes by the Institute for Creation Research's Henry Morris to "give students good sound scientific reasons to support their faith in the seven-day creation and the young Earth," if the bill passed. While released time programs are generally constitutionally permissible, a controversial feature of HB 133 was its allowing local boards of education to award course credit for participating in religious education. A case currently before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Robert Moss et al. v. Spartanburg County School District No. 7, concerns a local school district's implementation of the South Carolina Released Time Credit Act, enacted in 2006, which similarly awards course credit for participating in released time religious education. Besides the question of the bill's constitutionality, the state board of education opposed the bill when it was introduced as HB 568 in 2011, according to WAFF. HB 133 was passed by the House Education Policy Committee on February 29, 2012, and was expected to receive a floor vote in the House shortly thereafter. The Alabama Academy of Science issued a position statement in March 2012, saying that HB 133 "would undermine the science instruction that students receive on campus and which is presently guided by the Alabama Course of Study in Science" and that "the introduction of classroom subject content through the political process not only violates the academic freedom of the subject specialists to determine relevant and scientifically sound concepts, but also represents an inappropriate and potentially dangerous precedent for American public education." For WAFF's story, visit: http://www.waff.com/story/16681725/bill-would-allow-elective-religious-courses-for-high-school-students For the Birmingham News's story, visit: http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2012/02/alabama_legislation_proposes_o.html For information about Moss v. Spartanburg County School District No. 7, visit: http://ffrf.org/legal/challenges/watchdog-parents-file-suit-against-south-carolina-release-time-credits/ For the Alabama Academy of Science's statement on HB 133, visit: http://alabamaacademyofscience.org/hb133.php And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Alabama, visit: http://ncse.com/news/alabama CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE AMERICAN MIND: MARCH 2012 The latest survey on the American public's beliefs and attitudes regarding global warming offers few surprises. "Overall," the executive summary of Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans' Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in March 2012 summarizes, "Americans' beliefs and attitudes about global warming have remained relatively stable over the past several months, with a few exceptions." (The report provides longitudinal data back to November 2008 for most of the questions about beliefs and attitudes regarding global warming.) Presented with a definition of global warming as "the idea that the world's average temperature has been increasing over the past 150 years, may be increasing more in the future, and that the world's climate may change as a result" and asked whether they thought that global warming is happening, 66% of respondents said yes -- a slight increase -- while 14% said no and 20% indicated that they didn't know. Asked about the cause of global warming, on the assumption that it is happening, 46% of respondents said that global warming is caused mostly by human activities -- a slight decrease -- while 37% said that it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment, 9% volunteered that it is caused by both human activities and natural changes, 5% opted for "none of the above because global warming isn't happening," 2% offered other views, and 1% volunteered that they did not know. Asked for their views about what scientists believe, 35% of respondents agreed that most scientists think that global warming is happening -- a slight decrease -- 3% agreed that most scientists think global warming is not happening, 41% agreed that there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening, and 21% said that they don't know enough to say. Respondents were also asked to estimate the proportions of Americans who take various positions on global warming. The average responses were that 38% believe that global warming is happening due mostly to human activities (which is correct, according to the survey data), 25% believe that global warming is happening due mostly to natural causes (actually 19%), 21% don't believe that global warming is happening (actually 14%), and 20% haven't yet made up their mind about whether or not global warming is happening (correct). The study was conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. The surveys were administered from March 12 to March 30, 2012, using an on-line research panel of 1008 American adults. According to the report, "These results come from nationally representative surveys of American adults, aged 18 and older. The samples were weighted to correspond with US Census Bureau parameters for the United States." The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3% at the 95% confidence level. For Climate Change in the American Mind (PDF), visit: http://environment.yale.edu/climate/files/Climate-Beliefs-March-2012.pdf And for NCSE's previous coverage of climate change polls and surveys, visit: http://ncse.com/polls-climate-change NGSS, TAKE ONE The first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards is available on-line -- and your feedback is invited. The Next Generation Science Standards are intended to be "rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education." Comments on the first draft will be accepted on-line through June 1, 2012. "Feedback collected during the comment period will be organized and shared with the leading states and writing team members. After the feedback is considered, a feedback report will be issued that will explain how feedback was handled and why." As with the National Research Council's 2011 A Framework for K-12 Science Education, on which they are based, the first draft of the Next Generation Science Standards are not reticent about evolution and climate change. In life sciences, Natural Selection and Evolution is one of five main topics at the high school level, and Natural Selection and Adaptations is one of five main topics at the middle school level. Similarly, in earth and space sciences, Climate Change and Human Sustainability are two of six main topics at the high school level, and Weather and Climate and Human Impacts are two of six main topics at the middle school level. For the first draft of the NGSS, visit: http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards For NCSE's report on the NRC's Framework, visit: http://ncse.com/news/2011/08/evolution-nrc-framework-006819 Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution and climate education and threats to them. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/join