Oklahoma Is Descending into Madness

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.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Oklahoma Is Descending into Madness

  1. I would suggest the entire state is suffering from post concussion syndrome due to the prevalent earthquakes that originate in the region from all of their oil and fracking activities.

  2. But the teacher could also teach the weaknesses of ID and creationism, though they might likely face reprisal, demotion and/or firing. Or they could teach the weaknesses of the republican brain and its inability to grasp reality.

  3. Dave Luckett

    The purpose of this legislation is to allow free rein to creationists in the teaching profession to teach their nonsense. These people are not – almost always, not – actually trained as science teachers. You find them in elementary or middle schools, with a two or maybe three year qualification in education, but no science qualification at all. They have ducked any real understanding of biological evolution, and they haven’t the least idea of what it actually says,

    Sure, this is a minority – but it can influence a much larger number. If a kid actually answers a question from a parent about what happened at school today with something like, “Mr McReadnick told us that life is intelligently designed”. (unlikely, because kids usually say something like “Nothin:”) most parents will think nothing of it, and most of the rest will shrug uneasily and let it drop. Only a very few will get down to the schoolhouse to complain to the Principal. Until one does, the creationists will get away with it.

    Of course, when someone does kick up a ruckus about it, the teacher will be caught with their pants down as the cops rush in – but not the ever-lovin’ Legislature of Oklahoma, which will be far away, in perfect safety and comfort.

  4. Michael Fugate

    I see many majority “red” states want to change the US Constitution:
    https://www.conventionofstates.com/problem
    The claims are mostly economic, but one wonders what would happen given social conservatism in state legislatures.

  5. The bad guys are winning.

  6. Re Michael Fugate’s remark, that’s why so many people worry about a constitutional convention. The last one was only supposed to amend the Articles of Confederation, but instead created an entirely new system of government. Who knows what a second one would do, especially one dominated by right-wing zealots with fundamentalist leanings?

  7. We just learned from the website of channel 6 in Tulsa that the sponsor of the creationist bill in the house has died — see State Rep. David Brumbaugh Passes Away.

  8. Michael Fugate

    56 is young – too bad for his family.
    I note he was a deacon at Tulsa Bible Church where you have to agree to a whole bunch of stuff to be a member including this about the Bible: “They [OT & NT] are without error or defect of any kind.”

  9. SB 393 was not heard on purpose in the House Common Education Committee. Normally, that would have stopped the bill. But, the House leadership sent it to another committee to save it. There the vote was 4-3 for the bill. We are fairly sure that another Democrat member would vote no, but was absent. Had the vote been 4-4 it would have died, unless the House Speaker showed up to break a tie. We note that there was Republicans voting no. The close vote and the fact that Common Ed Committee failed to hear it may help down the road. Several groups are planning to oppose this bill all the way to the Governor’s office, if necessary.
    At least four other states have very similar bills, but lots of national coverage (AP, U.S. News and World Report, Huff Post, etc.) has brought attention to this bill. Also local TV and newspapers are covering this, some papers with front page headlines. Despite the most massive opposition we have had against these bills over 17 years (with success), SB 393 could pass.

  10. Victor Hutchison, when the thing is up for a vote by the House, if you have a member willing to introduce a floor amendment, you might consider something along the lines of The Curmudgeon’s Amendment. The amendment will destroy the bill whether it’s approved or rejected.