We were wondering about this one. Back in February that we wrote Creationist Bill in Maine for 2021. It was one of those “controversial issues” bills that requires teachers to present “both sides” of a “controversial issue” to their students. As for the question of what constitutes a “controversial issue,” the bill defines it as “a point made in an electoral party platform at the local, state[,] or federal level.”
In other words, if some whacked-out politician (local, state, or federal) is obsessed with so-called “critical race theory,” or LGBT issues, or creationism, then the public schools would be required to deal with the subject, and to present both sides. Depending on what’s in political party platforms, the law would also require teaching flat Earth, geo-centricism, astrology, etc. Jolly good fun for the kiddies, right?
We learned about the fate of this one from our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), who just posted this news item: Maine’s “controversial issues” bill dies. It was written by Glenn Branch, NCSE’s Deputy Director. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:
A bill in the Maine legislature that would ban public school teachers from practicing “indoctrination” — and contains a provision that could adversely affect science education — was defeated in June 2021. House Paper 395 would, if enacted, have required the state board of education to adopt rules to prevent public school teachers in the state from engaging in what it describes as “political, ideological[,] or religious advocacy.”
How would the bill prevent teachers from practicing indoctrination? NCSE says:
The rules would have required teachers to “provide students with materials supporting both sides of a controversial issue being addressed and to present both sides in a fair-minded, nonpartisan manner,” where “a controversial issue” is defined as “a point made in an electoral party platform at the local, state[,] or federal level.”
So how did the bill get defeated? NCSE tells us:
The bill was considered by the House Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, where the Maine Education Association, the Maine Principals’ Association, the Maine Curriculum Leaders Association, the Maine School Boards Association, and the Maine School Superintendents Association all testified against it.
Wowie — that’s a lot of opposition! NCSE continues:
The committee split, with eight legislators voting to reject the bill and five legislators voting to amend it to require (PDF) the state department of education to develop and implement professional development “regarding academic freedom and teaching about controversial and sensitive issues” and to report back to the committee, which might then recommend a requirement for school boards to adopt a policy on teaching about such issues.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Five members of the House Education committee thought the bill was a good idea. What happened then? Let’s read on:
The committee’s majority and minority reports then proceeded to the House of Representatives, which voted 82-63-6 to accept the committee’s majority report rejecting the bill on June 7, 2021.
Ah, a majority of the House supported the majority of the Education Committee. Very good! Here’s the end of NCSE’s article:
On June 8, 2021, the Senate voted 22-13 to follow suit.
So there you are. The Maine legislature has a majority of sane people in both houses, so the result was good. But both houses also have a solid block of droolers. That means a bill like this one is likely to return next year, and the year thereafter, etc. We’ll be watching.
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