NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2017/04/14
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear friends of NCSE, Bad news from Oklahoma. NCSE discusses climate change denial for the Union of Concerned Scientists. And the antiscience resolution in Alabama and one of Florida's antiscience bills progress further in their respective legislatures.
ANTISCIENCE BILL PROGRESSES FURTHER IN OKLAHOMA Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393, which would empower science denial in the classroom, was passed on a 4-3 vote by the House General Government Oversight and Accountability Committee on April 13, 2017. The bill will presumably proceed to the floor of the House for consideration. SB 393 would allow science teachers to teach anything they pleased, while preventing responsible educational authorities from intervening. No scientific topics are identified as controversial, but the main sponsor is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who introduced similar legislation that directly targeted evolution in previous legislative sessions. SB 393 was passed on a 34-10 vote by the Senate on March 22, 2017, after which it was expected to move to the House Common Education Committee. That committee, however, never scheduled a hearing for the bill, and its sponsors withdrew it and submitted it to the General Government Oversight and Accountability Committee instead. Speaking to E&E News (April 13, 2017) before the vote, NCSE's Glenn Branch speculated that Governor Mary Fallin might veto the bill even if it passes the House. In 2014, Fallin approved a new set of state science standards that acknowledge that human activity contributes to climate change "by modifying the chemical makeup of the atmosphere." "One of the objections to the bill is it would mean that the Oklahoma government is giving mixed signals to parents and teachers and students in that they have science standards that include evolution and climate change," he said. If the bill were passed, Oklahoma would be "freeing up their teachers to present material at odds with those standards." Speaking against the bill at the committee hearing were Aysha Prather of Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, Deborah Hill of the Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, Beth Allan, a biology professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, and Theresa Goughenour of Climate Parents. The sole person at the hearing to speak on behalf of the bill aside from its House sponsor David Brumbaugh (R-District 76) confirmed the suspicions of those opposed to the bill by emphasizing that its passage would enable teachers to present material supposedly challenging "neo-Darwinism" and climate change. Committee members voting for SB 393 were George Faught (R-District 4), Kevin McDugle (R-District 12), Kevin Calvey (R-District 82), and Jason Murphey (R-District 31). Members voting against the bill were Cyndi Munson (D-District 85), Roger Ford (R-District 95), and Greg Babinec (R-District 33). Johnny Tadlock (D-District 1) was absent. Among the state-level organizations opposing the bill are the Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club, and the grassroots pro-science-education group Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education. Among the national organizations opposing the bill are the National Science Teachers Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393 (PDF), visit: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2017-18%20FLR/SFLR/SB393%20SFLR.PDF For the story from E&E News, visit: https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060053039 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Oklahoma, visit: https://ncse.com/news/oklahoma NCSE AT THE UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS NCSE's Ann Reid, Glenn Branch, and Steve Newton contributed a guest commentary discussing the Heartland Institute's mailing of climate change denial material to teachers to the blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists (April 12, 2017). "This wasn't Heartland's first unsolicited mailing of climate change denial material to science teachers, and judging from the reactions we've seen, teachers haven't been fooled by this outing," they wrote, adding, "But here is how we're advising science teachers to explain why using these materials in any science classroom would be a terrible idea." They then briefly listed five points: "Virtually every assertion is false, controversial, or at best unclear"; "Heartland represents what is, at best, a fringe position in science"; "Heartland even disparages the well-respected, Nobel-Prize-winning, IPCC"; "Heartland's material contradicts standards, textbooks, and curricula"; and "Heartland's citations are shoddy and its tactics dishonest." "In the end," they concluded, "the climate change deniers at the Heartland Institute have no scientifically credible evidence of their own, leaving them with no option but to lash out at the real scientific literature, contributing nothing except vitriol, achieving nothing except confusion. Science teachers know better -- and science students deserve better." Consulted about the Heartland mailing by Frontline (March 28, 2017) and InsideClimate News (April 10, 2017), NCSE is in the process of developing information for concerned teachers -- and happy to accept donations to help it to do so. For the post at the blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists, visit: http://blog.ucsusa.org/guest-commentary/is-no-place-safe-climate-change-denialists-seek-to-sway-science-teachers For the Frontline and InsideClimate News stories, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/climate-change-skeptic-group-seeks-to-influence-200000-teachers/ https://insideclimatenews.org/news/07042017/heartland-institute-climate-change-denial-science-education And for the latest update on NCSE's efforts to counter the mailing, visit: https://ncse.com/blog/2017/04/don-t-let-heartland-fool-teachers-0018504 ANTISCIENCE RESOLUTION IN ALABAMA PROGRESSES Alabama's House Joint Resolution 78, which would, if adopted, ostensibly urge state and local education authorities to promote the academic freedom of science teachers in the state's public schools, passed the House Committee on Rules and then the House on a voice vote on April 6, 2017. After its passage on the House, HJR 78 was referred to the Senate Committee on Rules. 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. "Biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning" are specifically identified as controversial. The lead sponsor of the resolution, Mack Butler (R-District 30), 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 then 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!" Butler was similarly forthcoming with regard to HJR 78. He told the Decatur Daily (February 28, 2017), "In the development of critical thinking, we need to make it welcoming at least for a student or teacher to bring up another theory" -- which the reporter explicitly identified as "intelligent design" -- adding, "I've never minded evolution being taught, but I think the door should be open to other theories as well." Like Indiana's Senate Resolution 17, which recently passed the Senate there, the measure would have no legal effect. But, as NCSE's Glenn Branch previously commented, "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." For Alabama's House Joint Resolution 78 (PDF), visit: http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2017RS/PrintFiles/HJR78-int.pdf For Raw Story's report about Butler and House Bill 592 in 2015, visit: http://www.rawstory.com/2015/05/alabama-lawmaker-my-bill-protects-kids-from-learning-they-came-from-a-monkey/ For the Decatur Daily's report, visit: http://www.decaturdaily.com/news/other_news/state_capital/lawmaker-wants-intelligent-design-resolution-students-excused-to-play-taps/article_d273f5c5-e661-53ac-ad8d-443c1d9ffedf.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Alabama, visit: https://ncse.com/news/alabama FURTHER PROGRESS FOR FLORIDA ANTISCIENCE BILLS One of the two bills aimed at empowering taxpayers to object to the use of specific instructional materials in the public schools -- whose supporters have evolution and climate change in their sights -- progressed further in the Florida legislature. House Bill 989 passed the House Education Commitee on a 16-2 vote on April 6, 2017. Its counterpart, Senate Bill 1210, having passed the Senate Education Committee on March 27, 2017, is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee. As introduced, HB 989 and SB 1210 would have allowed any Florida taxpayer -- rather than only local parents -- to complain about instructional materials, and would have rescinded the finality of the local school board's decision on such complaints. As amended in their various committees, however, both bills now would allow only local parents or county residents to file complaints and provide, "The school board's decision after convening a hearing is final and not subject to further petition and review." But passage of the bills even as amended would threaten to inundate local school boards with scientifically unfounded attacks on climate change and evolution, as Brandon Haught of Florida Citizens for Science emphasized in a March 27, 2017, blog post. To demonstrate his point, Haught cited affidavits submitted in support of the bills that complained, e.g., "I have witnessed students being taught evolution as a fact ... rather than a theory ... I have witnessed children being taught that Global Warming is a reality." Opposition to HB 989 also came from the National Coalition Against Censorship, which warned the House Education Committee, "The bill threatens to undermine the quality of education in Florida by potentially inviting and facilitating wasteful, expensive, and viewpoint-based challenges." Reacting to HB 989's passage in a subsequent blog post (April 6, 2017), Haught lamented, "The nightmare is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality" even despite the "mountains of evidence" available about the intended use and abuse of the bills. For information on Florida's House Bill 989 and Senate Bill 1210, visit: https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=58685 https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/1210/?Tab=BillText For Brandon Haught's blog posts, visit: http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=2633 http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=2661 For the National Coalition Against Censorship's letter (PDF), visit: https://www.scribd.com/document/344866114/HB989 And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: https://ncse.com/news/florida WHAT'S NEW AT NCSE'S BLOG? Have you been visiting NCSE's blog recently? If not, then you've missed: * Glenn Branch reviewing the backlash to the Heartland Institute's climate change denial mailing: https://ncse.com/blog/2017/04/perfect-storm-silver-linings-0018511 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