NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/03/10
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear friends of NCSE, A busy week again! Nature calls on scientists to defend the integrity of science education. New science standards are adopted in Louisiana, while antievolution legislation surfaces in Arkansas, concerns mount about Oklahoma's antiscience bill, and two antiscience bills die in Iowa. NCSE endorses the March for Science. And a particularly egregious antiscience bill appears in Iowa.
NATURE ISSUES A RALLYING CALL TO SCIENTISTS The editorial in the March 8, 2017, issue of the prestigious scientific journal Nature calls on researchers to defend the integrity of science education -- and cites NCSE. Alluding to Iowa's House File 480, which would have required teachers in the state's public schools to include "opposing points of view or beliefs" to accompany any instruction relating to evolution, the origins of life, global warming, or human cloning, the editorial continues, "It's the latest in a surge of what advocacy group the National Center for Science Education calls 'antiscience' bills introduced in US state houses in recent weeks." "Although these proposed changes are typically presented by their supporters as giving teachers the chance to discuss genuine scientific controversies, in truth they are (very) thinly veiled attempts to pursue political and religious agendas that have no place in school science lessons -- for whatever age," the editorial observes, adding, "[C]hildren ... deserve much better from those elected to serve them." The editorial offers advice to concerned scientists: "join the voices and campaigns that seek to protect educational standards, speak out against damaging changes and support others who are already doing so, including those in the education system. Get involved: visit schools, meet teachers and assist people who want to continue to offer kids the best possible education by helping to prepare materials and lesson plans." NCSE's executive director Ann Reid commented, "Kudos to Nature for its rallying call to scientists. And a great way to pitch in, of course, is to support NCSE!" For the editorial in Nature, visit: http://www.nature.com/news/rising-to-the-challenge-as-us-states-turn-the-screw-on-science-education-1.21589 For NCSE's on-line donation system, visit: https://ncse.com/donate NEW SCIENCE STANDARDS IN LOUISIANA Louisiana's state board of elementary and secondary education voted to adopt a new set of state science standards on March 8, 2017, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate (March 8, 2017) -- but not without a nod in the general direction of creationism. At a meeting of a committee of the board held on March 7, testimony and discussion centered on the treatment of evolution in the standards, according to the Associated Press (March 7, 2017). After critics complained that no alternatives to evolution were included in the standards, the committee voted 7-2 to add a reference to the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act. Thus amended, the standards were unanimously approved. As NCSE previously reported, the LSEA, passed and enacted in 2008, calls on state and local administrators to help to promote "critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning"; these four topics were described as controversial in the original draft of the legislation. The LSEA also allows teachers to use "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner" if so permitted by their local school boards. Writing in Slate in 2015, Zack Kopplin presented evidence that the LSEA was invoked by Louisiana school districts as justification for using creationist material in their classrooms. Beyond the explicit reference to evolution, the links between the LSEA and creationism are abundantly clear. For instance, a sponsor of the bill told the Hammond Daily Star (April 6, 2008) that the bill was aimed at promoting the discussion of "scientific data related to creationism," and Louisiana's governor Bobby Jindal told NBC News in 2013 that the LSEA permits the teaching of creationism. The effort, led by Zack Kopplin, to repeal the LSEA have been endorsed by a host of scientific and science education organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Biology Teachers,the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the American Society for Cell Biology. The Advocate reports that the new standards will take effect in the 2018-2019 school year, with the 2017-2018 school year serving as a transitional period for teacher training and field testing. It remains to be seen what, if any, effect the mention of the LSEA will have. For the story in the Baton Rouge Advocate, visit: http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/education/article_5a25fccc-03ac-11e7-9063-fb6e0e6d0c3e.html For the Associated Press story (via the New Orleans Times-Picayune), visit: http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2017/03/science_evolution_standards.html For Zack Kopplin's story in Slate, visit: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/04/creationism_in_louisiana_public_school_science_classes_school_boards_and.single.html For the story in the Hammond Daily Star, visit: http://www.hammondstar.com/local_news/news/bill-allows-teaching-creationism-as-science/article_95832759-1abf-54c0-b67a-d2dbb99a570f.html For Bobby Jindal's comments about the LSEA to NBC News (at about 9:00), visit: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nbc-news/51522589#51522589 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: https://ncse.com/news/louisiana ANTIEVOLUTION BILL IN ARKANSAS Arkansas's House Bill 2050, filed as a shell bill on March 6, 2017 -- the last day on which bills may be filed in the 2017 regular session -- would, if enacted, "allow public schools to teach creationism and intelligent design as theories alongside the theory of evolution," according to THV 11 (March 6, 2017). The bill was filed by Mary Bentley (R-District 73). The federal courts have repeatedly held that teaching creationism, whether under the guise of "creation science" or "intelligent design," is unconstitutional. Among the relevant decisions is McLean v. Arkansas (1982), in which Arkansas's Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act was held to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. HB 2050 is the only antievolution bill to be filed in Arkansas since 2005's House Bill 2607, similarly filed as a shell bill and subsequently amended. If enacted, the bill would have required the state Department of Education to include "intelligent design" in its educational frameworks and also encouraged teachers in the state to include it in their lesson plans. HB 2607 died in committee. For the (placeholder) text of Arkansas's House Bill 2050 (PDF), visit: http://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/assembly/2017/2017R/Bills/HB2050.pdf For the story from THV 11, visit: http://www.thv11.com/news/local/on-final-day-to-file-bills-ark-legislators-introduce-slew-of-shell-bills/420182993 For the decision in McLean v. Arkansas, visit: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/mclean-v-arkansas.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Arkansas, visit: https://ncse.com/news/arkansas CONCERNS MOUNT ABOUT OKLAHOMA'S ANTISCIENCE BILL Two additional national organizations have expressed their concern to the Oklahoma Senate about Senate Bill 393, which would empower science denial in the classroom. In a March 2, 2017, letter, the American Institute of Biological Sciences described SB 393 as "bad for science, science education, and the future economic health and well[-]being of Oklahoma." The letter explained, "If Senate Bill 393 is enacted, it is our understanding that it would permit teachers to miseducate Oklahoma's students about any topic a teacher deems controversial, and would prevent state and local administrators from intervening. Litigation will almost certainly result if this bill is passed, and that will do little more than cost the state money that could be better used to support teachers and students," adding, "Importantly, there is no scientific controversy about the legitimacy of evolution or global climate change." In a March 6, 2017, letter, the National Coalition Against Censorship warned, "In contrast to its title, the bill is likely to undermine the integrity of science education by allowing classroom instruction to deviate from, and possibly contradict, professionally developed science standards." The letter explained, "The First Amendment has never been interpreted to allow, much less require, the dilution of educational standards. Scientists and science educators should determine together what should be taught in science class. Individual teachers should not be permitted to contravene that determination in favor of their own personal opinions; nor should legislators enact a bill that would allow or encourage them to do so." The National Association of Biology Teachers, as NCSE previously reported, already expressed its opposition to SB 393 in a February 15, 2015, letter, which warned, "The wording of this legislation easily allows non-scientific and false explanations for scientific topics to be inappropriately introduced into the science classroom." The letter explained, "NABT is confident that the students of Oklahoma are best served when scientific integrity is maintained in the science classroom. 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." SB 393 passed the Senate Education Committee on February 27, 2017. It is not yet scheduled to be heard on the floor of the Senate; March 23, 2017, is the last day on which it could pass the Senate. For information about Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393 from the legislature, visit: http://www.oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=SB393 For the three letters (all PDF), visit: https://ncse.com/files/Oklahoma%20Letter%203.2017%20final.pdf https://ncse.com/files/SB393_LetterNCAC.pdf https://ncse.com/files/Reject%20OK%20SB393%20.pdf And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: https://ncse.com/news/oklahoma TWO DOWN IN IOWA Two bills in the Iowa legislature that would have undermined the integrity of science education died on March 3, 2017, when a deadline for bills to pass committee in their house of origin expired. House File 480, introduced and referred to the House Education Committee on March 1, 2017, would, if enacted, have required teachers in Iowa's public schools to include "opposing points of view or beliefs" to accompany any instruction relating to evolution, the origins of life, global warming, or human cloning. There was no requirement that those "points of view or beliefs" have any scientific credibility. In 2015, Iowa adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, so presumably evolution and global warming are presented in the state's classrooms. House File 140, introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives on January 31, 2017, and referred to the House Education Committee, would, if enacted, have prohibited the state board of education from "adopting, approving, or requiring implementation of the [N]ext [G]eneration [S]cience [S]tandards by school districts and accredited nonpublic schools." The lead sponsor of HF 140, Sandy Salmon (R-District 63), is on record as opposing the NGSS in part of their treatment of evolution and climate change. Both bills were opposed by the Iowa State Education Association and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund, according to the legislature's website. For the text of House Fill 480 and House File 140, visit: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=87&ba=hf480 https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=87&ba=hf140 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Iowa, visit: https://ncse.com/news/iowa NCSE AND THE MARCH FOR SCIENCE NCSE is among the scientific, academic, and educational institutions endorsing the March for Science that will take place in Washington DC on April 22, 2017, with satellite marches planned in almost three hundred communities across the world. The goal of the march is to celebrate science and its crucial role in protecting the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children and the foundation of our economy and jobs. As NCSE's executive director Ann Reid explained in a March 6, 2017, blog post, "we believe that the marches will be a powerful and positive reminder that there is something that virtually everyone agrees on: the value and importance of science. ... While it is certainly true that Americans seem to be intractably divided over more issues than ever before, support for science is something that all of us share, and can continue to share." Among the partners with the March for Science besides NCSE are the American Anthropological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Society for Cell Biology,the Entomological Society of America, Research America, Science Debate, Sigma Xi, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. For the March for Science, visit: https://www.marchforscience.com/ And for Ann Reid's blog post, visit: https://ncse.com/blog/2017/03/why-ncse-is-marching-science-0018478 ANTISCIENCE BILL IN IOWA Iowa's House File 480, introduced and referred to the House Education Committee on March 1, 2017, would, if enacted, require teachers in Iowa's public schools to include "opposing points of view or beliefs" to accompany any instruction relating to evolution, the origins of life, global warming, or human cloning. There is no requirement that those "points of view or beliefs" have any scientific credibility -- only that they are opposed to whatever material is presented in the classroom. In 2015, Iowa adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, so presumably evolution and global warming are presented in the state's classrooms. "The rudiments of evolution and global warming, which are what is presented in Iowa's science standards, are scientifically uncontroversial," commented NCSE's executive director Ann Reid. "Passage of House File 480 would thus require the miseducation of Iowa's students on these topics and damage the integrity of science education in Iowa." Echoing the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008, the bill also provides that teachers may use supplementary instructional materials "to help understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner" with the approval of the board of directors of their school district. "The intention here is evidently to allow local school districts to allow their teachers to present creationism in their classrooms," NCSE's Reid observed. "The federal courts have repeatedly held that teaching creationism in the public schools is unconstitutional, so passage of HF 480 is likely to result in unnecessary conflict and even litigation." The bill is sponsored by Skyler Wheeler (R-District 4), Larry Sheets (R-District 80), Ralph C. Watts (R-District 19), Rob Taylor (R-District 44), Sandy Salmon (R-District 63) -- the sponsor of House File 140, which aims to undermine Iowa's adoption of the NGSS -- Tedd Gassman (R-District 7), and Terry C. Baxter (R-District 8). Already listed on the legislative website as opposing HF 480 are the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund and the Iowa State Education Association, which represents teachers, administrators, and educational support personnel from every level of public education in the state. The only similar bill ever to appear in Iowa previously was House File 183 in 2009, which would have applied only to higher education and which would have allowed but not required instructors to present "the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution." HF 183 died in committee. For the text of Iowa's House File 480, visit: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ba=HF%20480&ga=87 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Iowa, visit: https://ncse.com/news/iowa WHAT'S NEW AT NCSE'S BLOG? Have you been visiting NCSE's blog recently? If not, then you've missed: * Ann Reid discussing the March for Science: https://ncse.com/blog/2017/03/why-ncse-is-marching-science-0018478 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 email@example.com 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