We always give you a mid-year update on creationist legislation, because that’s when most US state legislatures have adjourned for the year. A few remain in session almost year-round, such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconson, and Pennsylvania, which means the life, liberty, and property of the people in those states are never secure, but they’re usually not hotbeds of creationist legislative activity.
For almost all other states, the legislators have already gone home. We are pleased to report that it’s been another good year, at least in terms of creationism. Our focus has been primarily on states that have tried to pass versions of the Discovery Institute’s Academic Freedom bill. We’ve critiqued their model bill here: Curmudgeon’s Guide to “Academic Freedom” Laws. As you know, the only states crazed enough to have enacted the Discoveroids’ bill are Louisiana and Tennessee. During the several years we’ve been watching, no other state that has considered such legislation has enacted it.
This year the Discovery Institute — probably to please their generous patrons — has posted a surprisingly rosy report on the year’s legislative activity — State Action on Science Education: 2017 in a Nutshell. It was written by Sarah Chaffee, whom we call “Savvy Sarah.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
With the legislative season finished, I would like to take a moment to review progress [Hee hee!] this year toward better evolution education in K-12 public schools. This year saw a growing movement by policymakers across the country to defend academic freedom to present the evidence for and against evolution. Two state legislative bodies commended academic freedom for teachers, Texas overcame attempts to gut their science standards on evolution, and other states took action regarding academic freedom as well.
What “progress” is Savvy Sarah talking about? She says:
In resolutions this legislative season, Alabama and Indiana both went on record in favor of academic freedom. In May, Alabama’s Senate adopted House Joint Resolution 78. While not legally binding, it officially encourages authorities not to prohibit public school teachers from “helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review” the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, so long as teaching falls within the State Board of Education’s curriculum framework. Similarly, the Indiana Senate passed Senate Resolution 17, encouraging discussion of the spectrum of scientific viewpoints on evolution.
We reported about that stuff — see Alabama Is Officially Insane. The resolution they passed is non-binding, but it urges state and local education authorities to promote the “academic freedom” of science teachers in the state’s public schools. We said:
So what does it mean? First, it gives the Discoveroids a kind of victory, the sort of thing that will please their generous patrons and keep the funds flowing. Also, it means that through their imbecilic legislature, the citizens of Alabama have proclaimed: “We are drooling creationists, and we urge our schools to teach our children to be drooling creationists.”
In Indiana: A New Kind of Creationist Madness, we said: “Even if these things do pass, they’re not binding, so all they do is cause trouble in the classroom and proclaim to the world that a state has a pack of idiots in its legislature.”
Okay, back to Savvy Sarah. She reports:
Both resolutions are good news for teachers who want to pursue academic excellence in science teaching.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Well, that’s good enough to satisfy the Discoveroids’ generous patrons. Then she says:
Meanwhile the Texas Board of Education rebuffed the Darwin-only crowd’s attempt to water down their state science standards on evolution.
We wrote about that too — see Texas Science Standards Are Now Revised. Back in 2009 the Discovery Institute successfully lobbied to get their creationist nonsense into the Texas science standards — see Texas Science Chainsaw Massacre: It’s Over. This year there was a vigorous attempt to expunge that garbage from the state’s standards — which was only partially successful. We said:
This represents a “victory” in the sense that the creationists on the SBOE [State Board of Education] budged a little bit. The standards are improved, but still sleazy. A creationist teacher can still go wild while teaching evolution.
After gushing about that, Savvy Sarah tells us:
Other states made progress [Hee hee!] as well. In Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas, academic freedom bills were introduced or made it through various stages of the legislative process, though none were passed.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! And that was the Discoveroids’ progress report.
Meanwhile, our friends at the National Center for Science Education have posted a brief report of their own: A legislative round-up in BioScience. They mention the wacky law enacted in Florida, about which we wrote Florida School Board Harassment Bill Is Now Law. For some reason, Savvy Sarah didn’t discuss that one — probably because the bill’s sponsors openly declared their religious motivations.
NCSE also quotes their deputy director, Glenn Branch, who discussed the nonbinding resolutions that passed in Alabama and Indiana. He said they represent a weakening of the creationists’ strategy:
I would expect to see a lot more resolutions like that in states where sponsors have failed [to pass stronger creationist bills.] At least they got something across the finish line.
So there you are, dear reader. Considering all the crazy legislation that was introduced in various states, and what little damage was actually done, it seems to us that 2017 wasn’t a bad year at all.
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