Pennsylvania Creationism: A Bill for 2013?

One week ago we posted North Carolina’s 2013 Bible Bill — It’s Dead, in which we delightedly announced that the last piece of creationist legislation that had been filed in several state legislatures this year had failed, including all of this year’s “academic freedom” bills.

Although we felt that we were over the hump, out of the woods, and in the clear for the remainder of this year, to avoid the wrath of the gods we tried not to be too gleeful, so as a cautionary note we mentioned that there were a few states that keep their legislatures in session all year round.

Our attempt to appease the gods didn’t work, and now they are teaching us a lesson in humility. One of those perpetually imperiled states we mentioned is Pennsylvania; their legislature never seems to adjourn. A lawmaker in that state has just shattered what we had assumed would be a care-free second half of the year.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer we read Pa. lawmaker’s education bill reignites creationism debate. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

A Republican state representative calls it a matter of academic freedom. Science-education advocates claim it’s nothing but a backdoor attempt to allow public schools to discuss Bible-based creationism.

Here we go again. The sad tale continues:

Rep. Stephen Bloom (R., Cumberland) circulated a memo to his colleagues Thursday seeking cosponsors for planned legislation to allow students in public elementary and secondary schools to question or critique “the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”

Who is this intellectual giant? Here’s his page at the legislature’s website: Stephen Bloom. The facial expression in his photograph looks like that of a man who just soiled his trousers. The minimal biographical information tells us that he’s a lawyer, and that his undergraduate degree was in something called “Agricultural Economics & Rural Sociology.” We shall henceforth refer to him as the creationist rural sociologist. Let’s read some more from the Inquirer:

Bloom rebuffed any suggestion his measure was an attempt to introduce religious teachings in public-school science classes. And he said he did not believe his idea would butt up against the landmark 2005 decision on intelligent design by a federal judge in Pennsylvania. In that case, Kitzmiller v. Dover, Judge John E. Jones III wrote that the teaching of intelligent design was a “relabeling” of creationism, and therefore violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

M’god! This guy knows about the Kitzmiller case and he’s nevertheless promoting his bill? That’s what happens to those who study rural sociology. We continue:

Steve Miskin, a spokesman for the House Republican caucus, said he was not aware of Bloom’s memo and noted that it was not yet in bill form. “It is only a concept,” Miskin said, adding that members of his caucus had not discussed the matter and did not yet have a position.

The newspaper quotes Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, but there’s nothing posted yet at the NCSE website about this situation. No doubt that will soon change.

We’ve excerpted enough from the newspaper, and we’re told that Bloom’s bill hasn’t been drafted yet, so what else can we say? Ah … at the legislature’s website they’ve got a link to all of Bloom’s Co-sponsorship Memoranda. And here’s the creationism memo he sent around to his colleagues: August 1, 2013 — Academic Freedom. It’s a page long, but in the interest of keeping everyone informed, here’s the whole thing, and we added some bold font to emphasize a few choice segments:

Academic freedom in the classroom is an essential educational value treasured by generations of teachers, students, and parents in Pennsylvania’s public K-12 schools. Nonetheless, efforts to squelch and stifle free critical inquiry in the classroom have too frequently arisen, often in the context of the teaching and debate of controversial scientific theories and paradigms. The irony in this, of course, is that the very means by which good science advances is through rigorous debate and creative challenges to the status quo. It is the exercise of academic freedom which drives the ongoing scientific process of discrediting and replacing our faulty theories and testing our ever-shifting paradigms.

With free discourse in the classroom under threat, I will soon be introducing a bill to preserve academic freedom in Pennsylvania’s schools. My bill, modeled on legislation recently enacted in other states, would neither conflict with nor duplicate the protections for academic freedom already provided by the Pennsylvania constitution and relevant law, but would instead bolster that freedom. The language was designed to be legally and pedagogically responsible, with the goal of helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the courses being taught.

It should be noted that federal law provides little if any protection for the exercise academic freedom impacting K-12 in-class instructional speech, which is the category of speech my legislation proposes to protect. Control of this category of speech — in-class student and teacher statements, official curricula, textbooks, content standards, etc. – is rightfully and properly left to states and localities. My legislation would ensure that Pennsylvania steps up to protect academic freedom for instructional classroom speech. Our teachers should never need to fear becoming victims of viewpoint-based adverse employment action arising from misplaced restrictions on their freedom to teach.

Please join me in cosponsoring this legislation.

At the end of that memo there’s a link to an attachment. And there we find a draft of the proposed bill. It doesn’t have a number yet, presumably because it hasn’t been filed. There’s no point in studying the thing because this may not be what gets introduced into the Pennsylvania House. But if you glance at it you’ll see that it’s a typical Discoveroid bill, about which see the Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws.

It should be fun watching how the Pennsylvania lawmakers react. Their private debates will probably go something like this:

We all love creationism and we want the state schools to teach it, but we know this is not only unconstitutional, it’s also going to make us look like those morons down in Louisiana. So what shall we do — kill this thing and thus be true to our oath of office, or promote it and show the world that we’re crazy?

See also: Creationist Wisdom #349: Debate Is Evidence.

See also: School Board Election in Carlisle, Penn.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Pennsylvania Creationism: A Bill for 2013?

  1. Science-education advocates claim it’s nothing but a backdoor attempt to allow public schools to discuss Bible-based creationism.”

    And another two (authors of the Inquirer article) take the bait.

    “Bible-based creationism” is the last thing we have to worry about. Bloom has read the Discoveroid memo cover to cover and is not your average clueless rube. This scam is perfectly “designed” to make the pro-science people sound like they’re advocating “censorship” when in reality it is the radical paranoid authoritarian anti-science lobby that is effectively doing that. If anything, teaching “Bible-based creationism” will be discouraged, for the simple reason that the anti-science lobby does not want students to critically analyze it’s fatal weaknesses, not the least of which is that it comes in several mutually-contradictory versions.

    The correct response to activists who demand to replace what has earned the right to be taught with long refuted misrepresentations that are designed solely to promote unreasonable doubt, and censor the refutations is: “Students already can and do learn that propaganda on their own time. But thanks for admitting that you advocate censorship on the public’s dime.”

  2. lanceleuven

    Judging by the words in that predicted private debate they seem to have a level of self-awareness that I’ve so far failed to credit them with. 😉

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    Even if it doesn’t make a bill, it makes noise that sounds like work, that pleases the rural sociologist’s constituency and gets him re-elected. “See I did all I could. If it wasn’t for that pesky Dover judge, I’d have kids learning the flaws of evolution right away in our great state of Pennsylvania.”.

  4. Academic freedom in the classroom is an essential educational value treasured by generations of teachers, students, and parents in Pennsylvania’s public K-12 schools.
    Academic freedom is appropriate for advanced levels. It is as inappropriate for kids as any other adult activity. It is certainly not “essential”, and has not been “treasured by generations” at that level.

  5. Republicans here have a curious desire to be reelected, this stupid idea is DOA.

  6. Off topic-In honor of A-Rod and J-Lo I’d like to offer B-Fad as your bold font added by us stand in. I do see the possibility that the font addition statement as is, may be necessary for legal purposes though. Back to biz.

    I liked hearing academic integrity better, but it is Pennsylvania. What hasn’t been said already, considering we know already this is only a recycled creation (denied) turned ID (denied) turned classroom speech, freedom to teach argument. If denied we know there will be another recycled attempt, or they will simply start over pretending the evidence for creation is more compelling than ever now. Unfortunately we have to wait and see, as painful as that is, and hope this is seen for what it is and denied again.

    I have noticed an improvement in tweeners, and young adults. More seem to not just have an apathy towards all of this, but a desire to actually resist being spoonfed the young earth idea, dragons, many literal instead of spiritual concepts concerning god. That last is especially encouraging to me, as they are shaking off the supernatural myths of religion. They appear to know full well the diff between reality and fairy tales, and equate the bible more in line with fable than fact.

  7. I suppose the Wedgies in Seattle will be looking for eastbound seat sales. Presumably we’ll be hearing from them shortly. After all, they put the ‘fun’ in Fundies.

  8. Don’t about the USA, but all my pupils are free to question or critique “the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories” about the spherical Earth. But if they write down during a test that that Earth is flat I cross it out with a red pencil.

    “controversial scientific theories and paradigms.”
    Ask the Flat Earth Society – the theory of the spherical Earth is controversial.

    ” viewpoint-based adverse employment action arising from misplaced restrictions on their freedom to teach.”
    Yes, I should be free to teach the Flat Earth Theory in Pennsylvania classes if I’d like.

  9. I read that and then heard Inigo Montoya protest that they keep using a phrase, Academic Freedom, that doesn’t mean what they think it means.

  10. TomS: “Academic freedom is appropriate for advanced levels. It is as inappropriate for kids as any other adult activity.”

    Quote button not working? Surely you know that academic freedom is appropriate and encouraged by mainstream science for all levels. What is not is this scam that’s being peddled under the bogus pretense of “academic freedom.”

    And before anyone takes more bait and says “teach it in Sunday School,” this scam, and any related one that misrepresents evolution, is especially inappropriate there, for the simple reason that it bears false witness. Teaching Genesis in Sunday School is a whole other matter. Many students read between the lines and take it allegorically. The only ones that don’t would probably not accept evolution no matter how it’s taught.

  11. I’ve made an appt this week to sit down w/ my Representative *(Mike Regan) and I highly encourage individuals to do the same, so that our legislators have input PRIOR to discussing how well this tactic will “appeal to the Christian voters.”