NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/03/03
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear friends of NCSE, A busy week! A new issue of RNCSE is available on-line, as is NCSE's annual report for 2016. Indiana's antiscience resolution passes the Senate. Climate change education receives a blow in Idaho. Antiscience bills are introduced in Alabama and progress in Oklahoma. The Science Teacher features a column by NCSE's Glenn Branch. And antiscience bills are introduced in Florida and progress in Indiana.
RNCSE 37:1 NOW ON-LINE NCSE is pleased to announce that the latest issue of Reports of the National Center for Science Education is now available on-line. The issue -- volume 37, number 1 -- is the fifth issue in the newsletter's new, streamlined, and full-color format. Featured are Glenn Branch's review of events during 2016; Randy Moore's discussion of "a cowboy museum that teaches creation"; Emily Schoerning's report on NCSE's Science Booster Club program; Kevin Padian's review of T. S. Kemp's The Origin of Higher Taxa; and Stephanie Keep's brief interview of Kevin Padian. The entire issue is freely available in PDF form from http://reports.ncse.com. Members of NCSE will have already received the issue in the mail, and will be receiving the next issue of Reports in early 2017. (Not a member? Join today!) For RNCSE 37:1 (PDF), visit: http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/article/view/410/800 For information about joining NCSE, visit: http://ncse.com/join NCSE'S ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2016 NCSE's annual report for 2016 is now available on NCSE's website. The report briefly reviews the challenges to the integrity of science education, summarizes the results of the NCSE/Penn State survey of climate change education, describes the burgeoning Science Booster Club and Scientist in the Classroom programs, and ends with a financial report -- especially useful for those considering donating to NCSE! As NCSE's executive director writes in her introductory letter to the report, "We are grateful to our board members, our many enthusiastic volunteers, and our thousands of donors, who make it possible for NCSE to fight the good fight." For NCSE's annual report for 2016 (PDF), visit: https://ncse.com/annualreport INDIANA'S ANTISCIENCE RESOLUTION PASSES THE SENATE Indiana's Senate Resolution 17, which targets the teaching of evolution in Indiana's public schools, was passed on a 40-9 vote by the Senate on February 27, 2017. SR 17 ostensibly urges the state department of education "to reinforce support of teachers who choose to teach a diverse curriculum." But evolution is clearly the target. The language of the resolution repeats 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 its initial sponsors, Jeff Raatz (R-District 27) and Dennis Kruse (R-District 14), have a history of introducing antievolution legislation in Indiana, as NCSE previously reported. SR 17 is a non-binding resolution with no legal force; a similar measure, House Joint Resolution 78, is presently under consideration by the Alabama House Rules Committee. 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 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Indiana, visit: https://ncse.com/news/indiana CLIMATE CHANGE TO REMAIN DELETED FROM DRAFT IDAHO STANDARDS Idaho's Senate Education Committee voted, on party lines, to delete five standards -- those discussing climate change and human impact on the environment -- from a proposed new set of state science standards for Idaho on February 27, 2017, according to Idaho Ed News (February 27, 2017). On February 9, 2017, the House Education Committee voted to delete the same standards, as NCSE previously reported. At the Senate Education Committee's meeting on February 23, 2017, testimony from the public was overwhelmingly in favor of retaining the standards, according to the Idaho Statesman (February 23, 2017), and the committee decided not to take a vote immediately, hoping to reach a compromise with its House counterpart. Such a compromise not materializing, the committee acceded. Although there have been legislative attempts to block new science standards owing to their treatment of climate change in other states, "I can confidently say that in no other state has the legislature taken it upon itself to engage in such a wholesale deletion of content about climate change from a proposed set of state science standards," NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch told the Idaho Statesman (February 27, 2017). He added, "I can with equal confidence say that the deletion is scientifically unwarranted.” The "vote does not end the [l]egislature['s] debate over science education -- and how climate change should be discussed in Idaho's classrooms," Idaho Ed News observed. "Because this year's standards are temporary in nature, the Legislature was going to have to review them again in 2018." For the stories from Idaho Ed News and the Idaho Statesman, visit: https://www.idahoednews.org/news/statehouse-roundup-2-27-17-electioneering-bill-gets-hearing/ http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/education/article134646019.html http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/education/article135350294.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Idaho, visit: https://ncse.com/news/idaho ANTISCIENCE RESOLUTION IN ALABAMA Alabama's House Joint Resolution 78, introduced and referred to the House Rules Committee on February 23, 2017, would, if adopted, ostensibly urge state and local education authorities to promote the academic freedom of science teachers in the state's public schools. "Biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" are specifically identified as controversial. Despite the caption "Urging teacher academic freedom regard scientific evidence subjects" (sic), the text of the resolution is essentially the now familiar text of the "science education act," recast as a resolution with three "Whereas" clauses and two "Be it resolved" clauses. Like Indiana's Senate Resolution 17, which recently passed the Senate Education Committee there, the measure would have no legal effect. But, NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch explained, "it would send a strong signal that the state legislature approves of Alabama's public school teachers presenting supposed alternatives to evolution, to climate change, and to any of the material covered in the newly revised state science standards. The passage of HJR 78 would promote not only confusion but controversy, perhaps even litigation, over the science curriculum." HJR 78 is sponsored by Mack Butler (R-District 30) and twenty-eight cosponsors. Butler was the lead sponsor of House Bill 592 in 2015, a "science education act" evidently aimed at evolution primarily. Raw Story (May 7, 2015) noted that Butler explained on his Facebook page that his bill would "encourage debate if a student has a problem learning he came from a monkey rather than an intelligent design!" HB 592 died in committee. For the text of Alabama's House Joint Resolution 78 (PDF), visit: http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2017RS/PrintFiles/HJR78-int.pdf For the Raw Story article, visit: http://www.rawstory.com/2015/05/alabama-lawmaker-my-bill-protects-kids-from-learning-they-came-from-a-monkey/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Alabama, visit: https://ncse.com/news/alabama ANTISCIENCE BILL PROGRESSES IN OKLAHOMA Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393, which would empower science denial in the classroom, was passed on a 13-1 vote by the Senate Education Committee on February 27, 2017. 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 prevent 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. Previous versions of SB 393 elicited opposition from the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the National Association of Biology Teachers, which also expressed its opposition to SB 393 in a letter dated February 15, 2015: "We respectfully request that the state reject SB 393 in support of science education that imparts to students an understanding of science based on the key components of the nature of science and content agreed upon by scientists and professional educators." Opposition to the bill is, as usual, being coordinated by the grassroots organization Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education. 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 For NABT's letter expressing opposition to SB 393 (PDF), visit: https://ncse.com/files/Reject%20OK%20SB393%20.pdf For Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, visit: http://oklascience.org/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: https://ncse.com/news/oklahoma NCSE'S BRANCH IN THE SCIENCE TEACHER NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch contributed a column, entitled "It's About Time To Teach Evolution Forthrightly," to the February 2017 issue of The Science Teacher, a special issue devoted to evolution. Taking the fiftieth anniversary of the repeal of Tennessee's Butler Act in 1967 as a point of departure, Branch observed that "the teaching of evolution is still contentious," citing recent calls "for teachers to be required or encouraged to misrepresent evolution as scientifically controversial." "But of course," he continued, "evolution is anything but scientifically controversial," given the overwhelming scientific consensus. "Yet," he added, "it is regrettably common for teachers to bypass, balance, or belittle evolution," citing the results of a national survey of public high school biology teachers conducted in 2007. Branch briefly described a variety of ways for classroom teachers to help to improve evolution education, ending, "[if] you simply haven't found the time to do so yet, remember what Scopes reportedly said ... when Tennessee repealed the Butler Act, 42 years after his conviction: 'Better late than never.'" Although the published version of Branch's column is available only to subscribers to The Science Teacher, the text of the column and a brief accompanying video are posted on the National Science Teachers Association blog. For the text of the column and the video on NSTA's blog, visit: http://nstacommunities.org/blog/2017/02/06/commentary-its-about-time-to-teach-evolution-forthrightly/ ANTISCIENCE BILLS IN FLORIDA A pair of bills introduced in the Florida legislature -- House Bill 989 and Senate Bill 1210 -- are ostensibly aimed at empowering taxpayers to object to the use of specific instructional materials in the public schools, for example on the grounds that they fail to provide "a noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues." There is reason to believe that evolution and climate change are among the targets. In 2016, two similar bills -- House Bill 899 and Senate Bill 1018 -- were under consideration. These were backed by two organizations, the Florida Citizens' Alliance and Better Collier County Public Schools, unhappy with the curricula and textbooks used in the public schools in Collier County, Florida. Among the causes of their unhappiness, as NCSE previously reported, was the inclusion of evolution and climate change. Currently, Florida parents unhappy with instructional materials are entitled to complain to their local school board, whose decision is final. HB 899 and SB 1018 in 2016 would have allowed any taxpayer to complain to the local school board, and moreover allow the appeal of a negative result to a circuit court to seek damages and/or injunctive relief. HB 989 and SB 1210 in 2017 would allow any taxpayer to complain, but not allow a further appeal. A further provision of the bills is also of concern. Currently, instructional materials used in Florida's schools must be consistent with the state science standards. HB 989 and SB 1210, like their predecessors, would allow that instructional materials may be alternatively be consistent with "standards that are equivalent to or better than the applicable state standards." No criteria for assessing the relative quality of standards are provided. Florida Citizens' Alliance's website features a list of “Examples of Acceptable/Proven K-12 Standards and Corresponding Curriculum," which includes a link to something called Freedom Project Academy (previously Freedom Project Education Classical Judeo-Christian Online Academy), whose high school biology classes refer to "the Creator God" and use a creationist textbook (Exploring Creation with Biology, second edition). Filed on February 23, 2017, HB 989 is sponsored by Byron Donalds (R-District 80). Filed on February 24, 2017, SB 1210 is sponsored by Tom Lee (R-District 20) and Debbie Mayfield (R-District 17). Florida Citizens for Science is monitoring the bills with concern, describing the "non-inflammatory, objective, and balanced" language as "a potential back door for inserting creationism and climate change doubts into the classroom." For the text of Florida's House Bill 989 and Senate Bill 1210, visit: http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h0989__.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=0989&Session=2017 https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/1210/BillText/Filed/HTML For Florida Citizens for Science's blog post about the bills, visit: http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=2567 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: https://ncse.com/news/florida INDIANA ANTISCIENCE RESOLUTION PROGRESSES Indiana's Senate Resolution 17, which targets the teaching of evolution in Indiana's public schools, was passed on a 7-3 vote by the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development on February 22, 2017. The resolution is apparently not yet scheduled for the senate floor. If passed, SR 17 would ostensibly urge the state department of education "to reinforce support of teachers who choose to teach a diverse curriculum." But evolution is clearly the target. The language of the resolution repeats 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 its initial sponsors, Jeff Raatz (R-District 27) and Dennis Kruse (R-District 14), have a history of introducing antievolution legislation in Indiana, as NCSE previously reported. Raatz and Kruse are now joined as sponsors of SR 17 by John Crane (R-District 24). Indiana's SR 17 is one of four similar bills introduced in 2017, along with Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393, Texas's House Bill 1485, and South Dakota's Senate Bill 55. It is unique among them, however, in taking the form of a non-binding resolution with no legal force. 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 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Indiana, visit: https://ncse.com/news/indiana WHAT'S NEW AT NCSE'S BLOG? Have you been visiting NCSE's blog recently? If not, then you've missed: * Stephanie Keep discussing the new television star Ben Santer: https://ncse.com/blog/2017/02/so-what-do-you-want-more-climate-scientists-tv-please-0018474 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