Antievolution bills die in committee, Texas science standards change

Two antievolution bills in Michigan died in committee on December 19th. The Michigan bills were modeled after the Louisiana Science Education Act which passed in June 2008. According to the National Center for Science Education:

If enacted, the [Michigan] bills would have required state and local administrators “to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages pupils to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues” and “to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum in instances where that curriculum addresses scientific controversies” by allowing them “to help pupils understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.”

… [I]n July 2008, the Michigan Science Teachers Association decried both bills, arguing (document) that the stated goals of the bills are already addressed by the state’s educational system. The MSTA added, “Whereas evolution, climate change and cloning are the only ‘controversial topics’ cited in these bills while ‘controversial topics’ in non-scientific fields are noticeably omitted and whereas the Curriculum Expectations already address the pedagogical & educational goals of these bills, the legislative intent of these bills is called into question. … . This type of legislation may enable the introduction of non-scientific ideologies, such as ‘intelligent design (ID) creationism’, into the public science classroom.”


Also: a follow up to a similar bill in Texas: the third draft of the Texas’s science standards is available and no longer contains the expression “strengths and weaknesses” for presenting the  theory of evolution. As the National Center for Science Education explains:

… [E]vidence continues to accumulate that calling for teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution is, in practice, simply a form of stealth creationism. … [I]n a December 1, 2008, post on its blog, the Texas Freedom Network examined how members of the antievolution faction on the state board of education have responded to a Texas religious right organization’s questionnaire over the past few election cycles. According to TFN, in 2008, they “strongly favored” forcing publishers to include “strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution” in biology textbooks, while in 2006, they “strongly favored” the teaching of “intelligent design” as a “viable” theory in public school science classrooms, and in 2002, they “strongly favored” the same — even though the question was prominently, and not inaccurately, labeled “Creationism” then. “Who,” TFN asked, “do they think they’re fooling?”

Scientific American published an excellent article on “The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom” which maps the shifting fronts on which evolution is attacked, in particular how the arguments have moved from “intelligent design” towards a redefining of “academic freedom” to encompass public schools (currently the legal right only applies to higher education institutions) and to “teach the controversy” of evolution.

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