The South Carolina legislature is in session. Outside the sun is bright, but within, darkness prevails, the drool is deep, the slime is thick, and the chamber resounds with flatulence.
That august body has distinguished itself a few times this year. Most recently we’ve been telling you about The Little Girl and the Creationists, Part 2, but there was an earlier outbreak of creationism. The legislature has been wrestling with the blasphemous notion of teaching — gasp! — science in their public schools. Our last post on that was South Carolina Science Standards — No Problem? But there is a problem, and it’s complicated.
The state’s Education Oversight Committee is “an independent, nonpartisan group made up of 18 educators, business people, and elected officials who have been appointed by the legislature and governor to enact the South Carolina Education Accountability Act of 1998. The Act sets standards for improving the state’s K-12 educational system.” The state’s standards were last updated in 2005, and they’re being revised now — but whatever the Oversight Committee does isn’t final. Their work has to go to another bureaucracy. It’s a brilliant system.
The Oversight Committee sends its work to the State Board of Education. That “consists of 17 members, one appointed from each of the state’s 16 judicial circuits by the legislative delegations representing the various circuits and one member appointed by the governor. Members are appointed for four-year terms.”
It’s a deliberately disorderly process, one which disperses responsibility, and we’re not certain what happens after those two bodies act. It may be that after the Board of Education works its bureaucratic magic — the legislature has to give final approval. That remains to be seen.
The current status of creationist teaching is reported in the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina. At their website we read South Carolina Education Oversight Committee approves biology standards requiring students to learn arguments for/against evolution. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
New language for high school biology standards is headed for consideration to the State Board of Education that would have students learn “the controversy.” The S.C. Education Oversight Committee on Monday sent proposed language to the board that would require biology students to construct scientific arguments that seem to support and seem to discredit Darwinism.
Lordy, lordy. We understand that decision was made in a 7-4 vote, and that it was being promoted by state Senator Mike Fair. We wrote about that back in February — see South Carolina Battle over Science Standards. He has a long history of promoting creationism. Back in 2008 we wrote South Carolina — Creationism in Science Class? Like now, Fair was in the state Senate then, and he introduced an Academic Freedom Bill in the South Carolina State Legislature. It didn’t pass, but he hasn’t given up. Wikipedia has a writeup on him: Mike Fair. Moving along with the latest news:
The decision [by the Oversight Committee] comes more than two months after the subject became a divisive issue for many in the Palmetto State and nationally in February, when Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, voiced opposition during the review and approval of a new set of science standards for 2014. At the time, Fair argued against teaching natural selection as fact, adding there are other theories students deserve to learn. He said the best way for students to learn was for the schools to teach “the controversy.” On Monday, he reiterated his stance.
“We must teach the controversy,” Fair said. “There’s another side. I’m not afraid of the controversy. … That’s the way most of us learn best.”
It looks like Fair is getting what he wants. What’s the situation now? The newspaper talks about reaction to the new “teach the controversy” language being sent by the Oversight Committee to the Board of Education:
Its passing [the Oversight Committee] was “frustrating,” “irritating” and “disappointing” to Rob Dillon, a College of Charleston biology professor and president of South Carolinians for Science Education. Dillon said this measure is part of an effort to sneak creationism into public schools. “There are no scientific arguments that discredit natural selection,” Dillon said. “There are exactly zero scientific arguments that discredit natural selection. What there are is about 10,000 religious arguments that seek to weaken natural selection.”
What’s the next step? Here’s one more excerpt:
Monday’s recommendation now goes back to the board of education. For the EOC’s recommendation to be included in the state’s standards, both bodies must agree on what the language should say. Otherwise, the state keeps the current language.
What does that mean? It would appear that if the Board of Education doesn’t agree with what Mike Fair and the Oversight Committee have done, the state will stay with the 2005 standards. But we’re not sure. This one isn’t over yet.
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