In June of 2008, the first “Academic Freedom” bill was passed by Louisiana lawmakers and then signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal. Special interests where beside themselves, claiming this bill would allow creationism to be taught in the public schools. What is their definition of creationism? Here is a typical example…
“Unfortunately, it’s remarkably selective in its suggestion of topics that need critical thinking, as it cites scientific subjects “including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
“As we noted last month, a number of states have been considering laws that, under the guise of “academic freedom,” single out evolution for special criticism. Most of them haven’t made it out of the state legislatures, and one that did was promptly vetoed.”
Notice the intended exaggeration in order to attempt to discredit the bill which came out of desperation and frustration. It’s a theme that gets repeated many times over by those who opposed the bill. So creation to them is teaching critical thinking skills that includes evolution rather than exempts it. Since that time, we haven’t heard much from these groups about creationism being taught there.
But last month an “Academic Freedom” Bill was passed in New Mexico which caused quite a stir…Here is what the NCSE had to say…
“Before the vote, the sponsor of the bill, Thomas A. Anderson (R-District 29), rejected a characterization of HB 302 as an “evolution bill,” telling The New Mexican (February 8, 2011), “I’m just trying to protect teachers.” Dave Thomas of New Mexicans for Science and Reason countered, “This is really just a ploy to get creationism in the classroom,” to which NCSE’s Steven Newton added, “Allowing creationist teachers to attack evolution is an injustice to the education of their students, who will live and work in a world increasingly dependent on understanding science and technology.”
So if a teacher who is a creationist that is teaching evolution it would be considered an injustice that would invoke creationism in the classroom according to Steven. It’s basically the same rhetoric from 2008 with a variant twist to it. These bills were partly inspired by the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision where it said…
“We will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.”
Here was what the school was teaching…
1) “The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.”
2) “Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.”
3) Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.
4) “As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.”
The school itself wasn’t teaching intelligent design principles during classroom time rather it made known to the students there was a viewpoint opposing evolution and if they wanted to know more there was one book in the library they could read. The other one watered down the idea and treated evolution as a hypothesis rather than a theory with its ever-growing complexity with new discoveries. It could have went further using an example like this, discovering organic material on a fossil assumed to be 417 million years old is not a gap instead it’s a clear falsification of old earth ‘theories’. Even though this particular example is fairly recent, there were other examples during that time to make the same statement.
The court’s ruling had no outlawed “Academic Freedom” Bills but guidelines that would required the teacher to criticize evolution. So how could a teacher then teach “critical thinking” skills? Every scientific theory has strengths and weaknesses. Evolution is no different. In fact excluding it from how students can learn critical thinking skills would make it a religion unto itself. Students should be taught about observations that are not matching up with its explanation such as the supposed 417 million year old fossil with organic elements still preserved in it which are normally broken down pretty efficiently by things like micro-organisms.