NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/01/27
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear friends of NCSE, South Dakota's antiscience bill passes the Senate after passing the Senate Education Committee. There's antievolution activity in Indiana, Turkey, and Oklahoma. NCSE bids farewell to Josh Rosenau. And a reminder that Darwin Day is less than two weeks away!
SOUTH DAKOTA'S ANTISCIENCE BILL PASSES THE SENATE South Dakota's Senate Bill 55 passed the Senate on a 23-12 vote on January 25, 2017, "despite guidance from the State Department of Education, state school boards, school administrators, teachers and scientists," according to the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader (January 25, 2017). If enacted, SB 55 would provide, "No teacher may be prohibited from helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific information presented in courses being taught which are aligned with the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48 [the section of the state code that governs the state education standards revision cycle]." Although no specific scientific topics are mentioned, the language of the bill matches the language in bills aimed at evolution and/or climate change, including South Dakota's SB 114 in 2015. And the sponsorship is similar: Jeff Monroe (R-District 24), a sponsor of SB 55, also sponsored SB 112 in 2014, which would have prevented school boards and administrators from prohibiting teachers from teaching "intelligent design." Troy Heinert (D-District 26), who voted against the bill in the Senate and previously in the Senate Education Committee, commented, "With the passage of this bill, that teacher hired by the school district to teach what the school board deems appropriate could go off on other tangents and there would be no way that the principal who does the evaluation by law would have to either reprimand them or bring them in." Describing the bill's language as "unclear and flabby," NCSE's Glenn Branch told the Argus-Leader that SB 55's passage could allow teachers to present creationism, climate change denial, or white supremacy with impunity. He also observed that local school boards could be put in a legal bind whether or not they tried to prevent maverick teachers from miseducating their students about science, warning, "This is a recipe for legal disaster." SB 55 now proceeds to the South Dakota House of Representatives, where Blaine Campbell (R-District 35), Julie Frye-Mueller (R-District 30), Tim Goodwin (R-District 30), Leslie J. Heinemann (R-District 8), and Taffy Howard (R-District 33) are its sponsors. For information about South Dakota's Senate Bill 55 from the legislature, visit: http://www.sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Bills/Bill.aspx?File=SB55P.htm&Session=2017 For the story from the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, visit: http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/25/sd-senate-oks-alternative-teachings-scientific-theories/97031900/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in South Dakota, visit: https://ncse.com/news/south-dakota UPDATE FROM SOUTH DAKOTA South Dakota's Senate Bill 55 passed the Senate Education Committee on a 4-3 vote on January 24, 2017, despite the opposition of the state's educational communities, according to the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader (January 24, 2017). If enacted, SB 55 would provide, "No teacher may be prohibited from helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific information presented in courses being taught which are aligned with the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48 [the section of the state code that governs the state education standards revision cycle]." Jeff Monroe (R-District 24), a sponsor of SB 55, told the Argus-Leader that he was told by teachers that they were uncomfortable teaching (unspecified) alternatives to climate change or unable to teach about the development of embryos. In 2014, Monroe introduced a similar bill, SB 112, which would have prevented school boards and administrators from prohibiting teachers from teaching "intelligent design" in their classes. Troy Heinert (D-District 26), a member of the Senate Education Committee who voted against the bill, noted that local school boards would lose any ability to oversee maverick teachers when it comes to teaching science, telling the newspaper, "What this is saying is you can bypass what your local school board is saying ... A vote for this is a vote against your local school board." Confirming Heinert's diagnosis was the fact that Wade Pogany, the executive director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, was among those testifying against the bill, according to KELO AM (January 24, 2017). For information about South Dakota's Senate Bill 55 from the legislature, visit: http://www.sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Bills/Bill.aspx?File=SB55P.htm&Session=2017 For the stories from the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader and KELO AM, visit: http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/24/lawmakers-approve-alternative-teachings-evolution-climate-change-sd-schools/96983444/ http://kelo.com/news/articles/2017/jan/24/lawmakers-advance-scientific-alternatives/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in South Dakota, visit: https://ncse.com/news/south-dakota ANTIEVOLUTION RESOLUTION IN INDIANA Indiana's Senate Resolution 17, introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development as of January 23, 2017, would, if adopted, ostensibly urge the state department of education "to reinforce support of teachers who choose to teach a diverse curriculum." But the teaching of evolution is the specific target of the bill. That the teaching of evolution is the target of SR 17 is apparent from its preamble, which cites the so-called Santorum language from the report to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 -- "Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), that the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics can generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society" -- and claims, "the ACLU and like organizations agree in principle that any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught." The sponsors of SR 17 are Jeff Raatz (R-District 27) and Dennis Kruse (R-District 14). Both legislators have a history of antievolution activity in Indiana. Kruse sponsored three bills -- HB 1356 in 2000, HB 1323 in 2001, and SB 89 in 2012 -- that would have allowed local school districts to require the teaching of creation science. In 2015, Raatz and Kruse sponsored Senate Bill 562, which would have deprived administrators of the ability to prevent teachers from miseducating students about "scientific controversies." Unusually, SB 562 mentioned only human cloning by way of example. All of these bills failed to win passage. SR 17's preamble resembles the provisions of SB 562. Speaking to the Lafayette Journal & Courier (January 20, 2015) about the latter, Raatz acknowledged that it could be called, as the reporter called it, "a back-door approach to failed attempts to chip away at state standards on teaching evolution and to bring creationism into the public school classroom." For the text of Indiana's Senate Resolution 17 as introduced, visit: https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2017/resolutions/senate/simple/17#document-d4dbc845 For NCSE's collection of information on the so-called Santorum language, visit: https://ncse.com/taking-action/analysis-santorum-language For the 2015 story in the Lafayette Journal & Courier, visit: http://www.jconline.com/story/opinion/columnists/dave-bangert/2015/01/20/evolution-science-back-bills-cross-hairs/22064443/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Indiana, visit: https://ncse.com/news/indiana EVOLUTION EDUCATION UNDER ATTACK IN TURKEY A draft of a new national curriculum in Turkey omits evolution, according to soL international (January 15, 2017). A unit entitled "The Origin of Life and Evolution" will be replaced with a unit entitled "Living Beings and the Environment." The final decision on the curriculum is expected in February 2017. "[T]he Minister of National Education, Ismet Yilmaz[,] said that the draft is open for feedback ... and the Evolution Theory is not an exception," soL International reported, adding, "Yilmaz claimed that 'whether it is scientific, merely a hypothesis, or just theoretical, all these are debatable.'" The teaching of evolution has been periodically contentious in Turkey, owing in part to the efforts of Islamic fundamentalist groups and politicians. Perhaps as a result, Turkey enjoys the lowest rate of acceptance of evolution in the developed world, according to a 2005 study published in Science. For the report from soL International, visit: http://news.sol.org.tr/government-remove-evolution-high-school-curriculum-171440 For the Science article on rates of acceptance of evolution (subscription required), visit: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/313/5788/765.full And for NCSE's previous coverage of events overseas, visit: https://ncse.com/news/international ANTIEVOLUTION LEGISLATION IN OKLAHOMA Senate Bill 393, styled the Oklahoma Science Education Act, is the latest antievolution bill in the Sooner State. SB 393 would, if enacted, in effect encourage science teachers with idiosyncratic opinions to teach anything they pleased -- proponents of creationism and climate change denial are the usual intended beneficiaries of such bills -- and discourage responsible educational authorities from intervening. No scientific topics are specifically identified as controversial, but the fact that the sole sponsor of SB 393 is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who introduced similar legislation that directly targeted evolution in previous legislative sessions, is suggestive. SB 393 would require state and local educational authorities to "assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies" and permit teachers 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"; it would prevent such authorities from "prohibit[ing] any teacher in a public school district in this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught." In late 2010, Brecheen announced his intention to file antievolution legislation in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 19, 2010): "Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors are being ignored. ... Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific findings[,] is incomplete and unacceptable." In a later column in the newspaper (December 24, 2010), he indicated that his intention was to have creationism presented as scientifically credible, writing, "I have introduced legislation requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution using the known science, even that which conflicts with Darwin's religion." What Brecheen in fact introduced in 2011, Senate Bill 554, combined a version of the now familiar "academic freedom" language -- referring to "the scientific strengths [and] scientific weaknesses of controversial topics ... [which] include but are not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution" -- with a directive for the state board of education to adopt "standards and curricula" that echo the flawed portions of the state science standards adopted in Texas in 2009 with respect to the nature of science and evolution. SB 554 died in committee. In 2012, Brecheen took a new tack with Senate Bill 1742, modeled in part on the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act; SB 1742 likewise died in committee. In 2013, Brecheen modified his approach again. Senate Bill 758 followed the lead of Tennessee's "monkey law" (as it was nicknamed by House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh), enacted (as Tenn. Code Ann. 49-6-1030) over the protests of the state's scientific and educational communities in 2012. The major difference is that SB 758 omitted the monkey law's statement of legislative findings, which cites "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" as among the topics that "can cause controversy" when taught in the science classroom of the public schools. The bill died in the Senate Education Committee. The failure of SB 758 notwithstanding, Brecheen persisted. In 2014, he introduced the virtually identical SB 1765. Like SB 758, it died in the Senate Education Committee, but not before eliciting opposition from the American Institute of Biological Sciences, which described the bill as "bad for science and bad for science education," and the National Association of Biology Teachers, which warned that it "could easily permit non-science based discussions of 'strengths and weaknesses' to take place in science classrooms, confusing students about the nature of science." In 2015 and 2016, he introduced the virtually identical SB 655 and SB 1322, respectively; both died in the Senate Education Committee. For the text of Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393 as introduced (PDF), visit: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2017-18%20INT/SB/SB393%20INT.PDF And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: https://ncse.com/news/oklahoma FAREWELL TO JOSH ROSENAU NCSE bids farewell to Josh Rosenau, who joined NCSE as a Programs and Policy Director in 2007. Equipped not only with his substantive knowledge of biology but also with his experience resisting creationist assaults on science education in Kansas, he was particularly valuable to grassroots activists across the country, testifying before the Texas state board of education in 2011 and 2013, and conducting a series of webinars for science education activists. Rosenau also significantly contributed to a number of projects at NCSE, including the addition of climate science as a focus, the creation of NCSE's blog, the teacher scholarships on NCSE's Grand Canyon excursions, and the development and analysis of the NCSE/Penn State survey of climate change education in the United States. A gifted writer, he published articles on evolution and climate education in venues ranging from the Washington Post to Trends in Microbiology. All of us at NCSE wish him the best in his new endeavors. For the series of webinars, visit: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEY5FNAfU6XDtKlSIQI_KDaBnC-9dsTPj For Rosenau's posts on NCSE's blog, visit: https://ncse.com/blog?f=author%3A10 And for the report of the NCSE/Penn State survey, visit: https://ncse.com/files/MixedMessages.pdf DARWIN DAY APPROACHES It's time to dust off your Darwin costume again: less than two weeks remain before Darwin Day 2017! Colleges and universities, schools, libraries, museums, churches, civic groups, and just plain folks across the country -- and the world -- are preparing to celebrate Darwin Day, on or around February 12, in honor of the life and work of Charles Darwin. These events provide a marvelous opportunity not only to celebrate Darwin's birthday but also to engage in public outreach about science, evolution, and the importance of evolution education -- which is especially needed with assaults on evolution education already under way in state legislatures. NCSE encourages its members and friends to attend, participate in, and even organize Darwin Day events in their own communities. To find a local event, check the websites of local universities and museums and the registry of Darwin Day events maintained by the Darwin Day Celebration website. (And don't forget to register your own event with the Darwin Day Celebration website!) And with Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend! Hundreds of congregations all over the country and around the world are taking part in Evolution Weekend, February 10-12, 2017, by presenting sermons and discussion groups on the compatibility of faith and science. Michael Zimmerman, the initiator of the project, writes, "Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. One important goal is to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic -- to move beyond sound bites. A second critical goal is to demonstrate that religious people from many faiths and locations understand that evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith. Finally, as with The Clergy Letter itself, Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy." At last count, 306 congregations in forty-five states (and seven foreign countries) were scheduled to hold Evolution Weekend events. For the Darwin Day registry, visit: http://darwinday.org/events/ http://darwinday.org/events/community/add For information about Evolution Weekend, visit: http://www.evolutionweekend.org/ WHAT'S NEW AT NCSE'S BLOG? Have you been visiting NCSE's blog recently? If not, then you've missed: * Emily Schoerning describing the national expansion of NCSE's Science Booster Club program: https://ncse.com/blog/2017/01/were-going-national-0018442 For NCSE's blog, visit: http://ncse.com/blog 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. 1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600 Oakland CA 94612-2922 510-601-7203 fax 510-788-7971 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Check out NCSE's blog: http://ncse.com/blog 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