A Plea for “Academic Freedom Laws”

How many states have dealt with creationism laws this year? Not too many. They’ve gone down in flames in Indiana, and in Montana, and in Oklahoma, and in South Dakota. The only one still pending is in Missouri.

The rational world rejoices, but that doesn’t include the creationists at World Magazine — a religious publication that promotes Discoveroid causes. Their “About Us” section says:

We stand for factual accuracy and biblical objectivity, trying to see the world as best we can the way the Bible depicts it. Journalistic humility for us means trying to give God’s perspective. … We believe that our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever — and forever begins right now.

Now that you know what we’re dealing with, take a look at their headline: Evolutionists kill academic freedom bills in four state legislatures. That’s designed to alarm their drooling readers. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Public school science teachers want to teach without fear of discipline, demotion, or termination when the curriculum touches topics that are controversial outside the classroom. Lawmakers in four states tried this year to introduce academic freedom bills to protect teachers for questioning theories like Darwinism, shielding them from retaliation. But opponents killed the bills before they could get a fair hearing, raising concerns among educators who might not fully embrace the theory of evolution.

Oh dear — academic freedom bills were killed — killed! — before they could get a fair hearing. How horrible! And they’re so desperately needed, as the next excerpt explains:

“There are a number of incidents around the country where teachers have been threatened or fired,” said Casey Luskin, research coordinator for the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. “They simply cited some of the problems with Darwinism.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Casey is their source of information. Let’s read on:

Most, if not all, of the bills were modeled after an academic freedom statute drafted by the Discovery Institute, which advocates for intelligent design as a better scientific explanation for driving the mechanism of life. Critics claim the proposed legislation is a way to introduce intelligent design and creationism in the classroom.

They’re right about that. Those bills were modeled on the anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism Academic Freedom Act promoted by the Discovery Institute. We’ve critiqued their model bill here: Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws. World Magazine continues:

But in two states that already have academic freedom laws, that [teaching intelligent design and creationism in the classroom] hasn’t happened. As the first to pass an Academic Freedom bill into law in 2008, Louisiana has had enough time for any unintended consequences to surface. None have. In 2012, Tennessee became the second state to protect teachers who challenge students to think critically by discussing opposing sides of controversial topics.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We’re expected to believe that no one teaches creationism in Louisiana or Tennessee public schools. Then they quote Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, the politically powerful creationist lobbying operation in Louisiana, who says:

The legislation prohibits promoting religion, which would block creationism, and it prohibits teaching subjects outside of an approved course of study. To his knowledge, intelligent design is not a part of any curriculum in any public educational institution in the country.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! As we’ve previously explained, the Discoveroids’ model act provides:

Section 7. Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or non-religion

It’s a clause that presumes to instruct the courts how to construe the law by claiming that it isn’t what it obviously is. That “shall not be construed” clause is a “cloaking device” designed to make the law’s religious purpose invisible to the courts. It falsely suggests that the bill’s purpose is entirely secular — the exact opposite of its actual purpose. And as we’ve said a few times before, that ridiculous “Hey, Judge: Here’s how to construe this law” section of such bills is comparable to a suicide-bomber’s explosive-laden vest being sewn with a tag saying: “Attention Bomb Squad Coroner: The deceased wearer of this garment should not be construed to be a suicide bomber.”

Okay, here’s more from World Magazine:

Still, opponents continue their attempts to overturn existing academic freedom laws and block the passage of new legislation, claiming science shouldn’t be questioned.

Aaaargh!! Even World Magazine has to know that’s garbage. Moving along:

But science is never settled. Discoveries beget questions that research and more discoveries answer in a continuing quest for knowledge.

Yes, we know, but neither science nor society ever advances by abandoning reality and retreating into Oogity Boogity. Here’s the end of the article:

Luskin and Mills say that cycle can only survive where scientists are free to pursue it and teachers are free to debate and teach it.

Why do we bother with World Magazine? Despite their pretensions of being a news magazine, they seem to be just another creationist blog — and they’re neither original nor entertaining. Okay, we’ve made up our mind. Goodbye, World!

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “A Plea for “Academic Freedom Laws”

  1. It’s interesting how they positively frame these laws, using terms like “freedom” that sound like a good idea. I bet if you polled people about their opinion on “academic freedom” they’d have no idea they were being asked about how they felt about creationism being taught in schools.

    It’s a great (though sneaky) sales pitch. Hopefully it doesn’t succeed.

  2. As a life long academic (now retired), I think I know a little about academic freedom. And I’m for that. But there’s also this thing that I’ll call “curricula responsibility”. Maybe the name isn’t as sexy, but that’s what applies in the classroom.

    My academic freedom has to do with my research, with what I might choose to say in public speech, etc. However, when I am teaching, I still have a responsibility to teach the curriculum. If I don’t like what is in the curriculum, there is ample opportunity for me to argue that in university committees that control the curriculum. The classroom is not the place for that argument.

  3. Neil Rickert: “If I don’t like what is in the curriculum, there is ample opportunity for me to argue that in university committees that control the curriculum. The classroom is not the place for that argument.”

    True enough in the university, and emphatically so in primary and secondary education. If a public school science teacher has a problem with teaching about evolution, they are in the wrong job.

  4. Holding The Line In Florida

    @retiredsciguy. Amen brother! Just got my first “Have you heard the Word of God today” letters from students in a long time. The murmurs of I don’t believe this are mumbled. It is most telling that letters are from some of the lowest performing students I have. The drool is strong in a few of these kids!

  5. aturingtest

    Public school science teachers want to teach without fear of discipline, demotion, or termination when the curriculum touches topics that are controversial outside the classroom.

    That word- “controversial”- amounts to a kind of bait-and-switch tactic, I think. There’s certainly no scientific controversy about the merits of the TOE vs ID/creationism; the only actual controversy is a self-created and self-feeding political one. Once you’ve created the political controversy outside the classroom, then you can appeal to people’s basic sense of fair play to frame the debate as “fear of controversy and reprisal” (without specifying what sort of controversy, and whether it’s a relevant one), and, by itself, a reason to give both sides equal time in the classroom. It turns the teaching of a hard science like the TOE into the equivalent of the teaching of softer subjects like political history. “Science class is for science” no longer works when you’ve made the argument about something besides the science.

  6. Kenny Walter

    World Magazine says they stand for factual accuracy and biblical objectivity. Factual accuracy, is fine, if redundant. That second one is subjective objectivity though right?

  7. “We stand for factual accuracy and biblical objectivity, trying to see the world as best we can the way the Bible depicts it. Journalistic humility for us means trying to give God’s perspective. … We believe that our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever — and forever begins right now.”

    “Factual accuracy and biblical activity”? What exactly is the latter?

    Oh, I see. They’re redefining “objectivity” to mean “literalism.”

    “The legislation prohibits promoting religion, which would block creationism, and it prohibits teaching subjects outside of an approved course of study.

    It does seem that Louisiana’s “academic freedom” bill would block creation, in which case one has to ask why creationists are such fans of it. Certainly not out of any love of academic freedom, or any other kind of freedom either.

  8. Absolutely agree with the above re teaching the curriculum. I teach between 300 and 600 students every semester, all of whom have paid a lot of money for the privilege, and who need to know chemistry to succeed in their various fields, which range from physics to kinesiology (and even a few chemists!). If I taught them alchemy instead of pH, they would deserve their money back.

    And if I don’t agree with something in their textbooks, like the hydribization of d-orbitals with s and p (don’t ask), then I say so. But making clear that that’s just my opinion.

    As for science never being settled, with discoveries begetting new questions, if creationists ever make some discoveries, they can give me a call.