Thursday, February 21, 2013

On the Eighth Day, God Created Oklahoma

Back in May, 2005 the Kansas Board of Education flirted with the notion of teaching intelligent design, the pseudoscience that teaches that the universe was created by an intelligent being (God) and not in the ways that collective scientific knowledge has put forth.
In other words, it’s kind of more like we read in the Book of Genesis and not a lot like the ideas of Einstein, Darwin and primordial soup theory.
The hearings were well-attended by those sold on the notion that the universe was created out of nothing by a benign all-knowing deity, but completely boycotted by the scientific community.
The way this was started, by the way, was through an organization called The Discovery Institute which developed a “Critical Analysis of Evolution” lesson plan. This is a thinly veiled attempt at proselytization in public schools under the guise of academic freedom and critical thinking skills.
The Board adopted these new standards, then the voters went to the polls, then the Board voted again to reject these standards.
Fast forward to today. Today the same thing is being tried in Oklahoma, but this time the standards are being legislated by Republican State Rep Gus Blackwell, a conservative evangelical Republican. The song is the same, this time it is being called the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act.
Same theme. This one though says that it is all right to talk about alternatives to evolution, alternatives to global warming (?) and alternatives to human cloning. In short it allows a conversation in the Biology class ”without repercussions.”
”Without repercussions?”
Blackwell explains:
“I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks. A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations."
Now let me tell you why this is a horrible idea, and why lesson plans should not be legislated.
Biology is a vast subject. It is such a broad subject that these days biological information is growing almost vertically with time. There is so much to teach. The last thing you want to do is get bogged down in nitpicking and challenging things you need to learn about in order to become informed in biological sciences.
Legislators have no idea what goes on in a science classroom and how little time there is left to science teachers just to teach their content. Legislators need to get out of the education business, and evangelical Republicans need to put religious notions back in church where they belong.

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