The latest Oklahoma news is headlined at the website of our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE): Antiscience bill progresses further in Oklahoma. Considering the anti-Enlightenment purpose of the bill, and its clear intent to roll science education back to the Dark Ages, we wouldn’t say that the bill is “progressing.” It’s sliming or oozing or excreting its way through the process of becoming law.
You already know the background. Our last post this was Weird Senator Praises Oklahoma Creationism Bill. The bill is Senate Bill 393, sponsored by Josh Brecheen, which he has also sponsored in prior years. We posted its text in Oklahoma Creationism Bill for 2015. The thing is loosely based 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.
Here are some excerpts from NCSE’s article, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 393 (PDF), which would empower science denial in the classroom, was passed on a 4-3 vote by the House General Government Oversight and Accountability Committee on April 13, 2017. The bill will presumably proceed to the floor of the House for consideration.
A quick look at this link where one can follow the bill’s progress, Bill Information for SB 393, tells us that the bill was removed from the House Education Committee (where nothing was happening) and sent to the House committee for General Government Oversight and Accountability, where it was approved on 13 April. Okay, back to NCSE:
SB 393 would allow science teachers to teach anything they pleased, while preventing responsible educational authorities from intervening. No scientific topics are identified as controversial, but the main sponsor is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who introduced similar legislation that directly targeted evolution in previous legislative sessions.
No one is in doubt about the bill’s purpose. NCSE says:
Speaking to E&E News (April 13, 2017) before the vote, NCSE’s Glenn Branch speculated that Governor Mary Fallin might veto the bill even if it passes the House. In 2014, Fallin approved a new set of state science standards that acknowledge that human activity contributes to climate change “by modifying the chemical makeup of the atmosphere.”
“One of the objections to the bill is it would mean that the Oklahoma government is giving mixed signals to parents and teachers and students in that they have science standards that include evolution and climate change,” Branch observed. If the bill were passed, Oklahoma would be “freeing up their teachers to present material at odds with those standards.”
Apparently a veto by the Governor is the only hope — but were that to happen, there would surely be an attempt by the legislature to override the veto. Here’s one last excerpt from NCSE:
The sole person at the hearing to speak on behalf of the bill aside from its House sponsor David Brumbaugh (R-District 76) confirmed the suspicions of those opposed to the bill by emphasizing that its passage would enable teachers to present material supposedly challenging “neo-Darwinism” and climate change.
If the bill becomes law and is later challenged in court, that sort of thing is useful as legislative history indicating the bill’s actual purpose.
There’s no date set for a vote by the full House. The Oklahoma legislature is scheduled to adjourn on 26 May. We’ll be watching.
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