Our last report on creationist legislation in Oklahoma was One Down, One To Go. The surviving bill was Sally Kern’s bill: HB1551, revived from last year, which we described in detail last January.
At our last report we had been informed by our clandestine operative, code-named “OO,” that Kern’s bill passed a vote in committee 9-7. Looking at the legislature’s page for the bill, we find that Kern has been removed as author of the bill and in her place have been substituted Senator David and Representative Blackwell. We don’t yet know what that’s all about
Today the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports Oklahoma antiscience bill passes the House. They say, with bold font added by us:
Oklahoma’s House Bill 1551 — one of two bills attacking the teaching of evolution and of climate change active in the Oklahoma legislature during 2012 — passed the House of Representatives on a 56-12 vote on February 15, 2012.
We think they meant March 15, not February. This is the current text of the bill, slightly edited and with bold font added for easier reading:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA:
SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act”
SECTION 2. A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 11-122 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
2.A. The Oklahoma Legislature finds that an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens. The Legislature further finds that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics and physics can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on some subjects such as, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.
2. B. The State Board of Education, district boards of education, district superintendents and administrators, and public school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues. Educational authorities in this state shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.
2. C. The State Board of Education, a district board of education, district superintendent or administrator, or public school principal or administrator shall not prohibit any teacher in a school district in this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.
2. D. Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to exempt students from learning, understanding and being tested on curriculum as prescribed by state and local education standards.
2. E. The provisions of the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act shall only protect the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion. The intent of the provisions of the act is to create an environment in which both the teacher and students can openly and objectively discuss the facts and observations of science, and the assumptions that underlie their interpretation.
F. By no later than the start of the 2012-2013 school year, the State Department Education shall notify all district superintendents of the provisions of the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act. Each superintendent shall then disseminate to all employees within the district a copy of the provisions of the act.
SECTION 3. This act shall become effective July 1, 2012.
SECTION 4 It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.
How bad is this bill? Your best clue comes from the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).
The Discoveroids have just posted this deliriously ecstatic article by John West (whom we call “Westie”). It’s titled Oklahoma House Passes Academic Freedom Act by Overwhelming Margin. Westie says, with our bold font and his links omitted:
Striking a blow for academic freedom in the discussion of scientific controversies, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act” (HB 1551) on Thursday evening by an overwhelming vote of 56-12. The measure now awaits consideration by the Oklahoma Senate.
Yes, it’s “a blow for academic freedom.” Let’s read on:
The bill would safeguard the rights of both teachers and students. With regard to teachers, it states that they “shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.” With regard to students, the measure states that they “may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories.”
That’s great. The kiddies can scribble about Noah’s Ark on their exam answers, and they can’t be penalized. Westie babbles on about how the bill claims it “shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine,” which we know is nonsensical, because that’s the bill’s only purpose. This is pretty much a replay of the infamous creationism bill passed in Louisiana back in 2008.
So now it’s up to the Oklahoma Senate. Is that legislative body as crazy as the House? We shall see.
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