What do you think of this? Tennessee has enacted a law (HB 0368-SB 0893) which states (emphasis mine):
This bill prohibits the state board of education and any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or principal or administrator from prohibiting any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught, such as evolution and global warming. This bill also requires such persons and entities to endeavor to:
(1) Create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students 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
(2) Assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.
In short, Tennessee has forbidden politicians from interfering with teachers who point out that all is not certain in matters scientific. Regular readers of this blog will know that scientism and over-certainty is rampant, such that any program which encourages people to understand (let us call it) scientific cockiness is to be welcomed. This bill forbids Lysenkoism, which is the deciding of scientific “truth” by vote or popular acclaim.
It rewards teachers who imbue in students how to best “review in an objective manner” evidence, which is the stated purpose of science. So what are folks saying about this legislative breath-of-fresh-air?
At Think Progress, there is apoplexy, but as this is a permanent state of being for progressives it tells us nothing.
Now, before I tell you of other opinions, I must inform you that after the word “taught” in the first sentence, I cut out the phrase “such as evolution and global warming” so as not to prejudice your minds until after you considered the main argument, which is unchanged whichever particular branch of science you care to insert as an example.
But you won’t now be surprised that some are saying the bill forces teachers to say that “evolution and climate change are scientifically controversial.” The ACLU thinks the bill is going to “gut science education in public schools.”
Time magazine’s Adam Cohen is beside himself and says the “law encourages teachers to inject dubious ideas into their instruction.” He is certain sure that the “monkey” bill’s intent is “political.” Even though, of course, the language of the bill is to prohibit or limit the politicization of science.
Cohen agrees with the ACLU that “there is no dispute in the legitimate scientific community over the validity of evolution” or climate change This is false (even about the fundamentals). If there were no disputes over evolution or climatology, departments of each at universities worldwide would just shut down—what reasons would there be for their continuing research programs since “the science is settled”?
But we know what they really mean: they fear that “young Earther” and “denialist” teachers will poison a generation of young minds. Long live the “denialists”, but do we really want a horde of Tennesseans surging forth proclaiming the Earth is only a few thousand years old? Cohen points out that Tennessee already suffers, educationally speaking. That state does in fact score at the bottom in reading and math (see Fig. 3 in the full report).
But just how likely is it that students will hear and then actually believe that the Earth is six thousand years old and that dinosaurs were once pets of humans or whatever it is some “creationists”1 believe? Anyway, the language of the bill does not give license to teach any crackpot theory—like Gaiaism, catastrophism, or Marxism—which takes a teacher’s fancy. The bill specifically says emphasis should be placed upon “the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.” How is that objectionable?
Wouldn’t it be grand if students were taught that climate forecasting is an uncertain science? That the evidence for our environmental doom has been systematically exaggerated? Or do we want to turn out pupils like this little girl, a product of the California school system. She has been so indoctrinated—there is no other word—that she tells us that, “Sometimes I wish we didn’t exist.” She has been taught that human non-existence is a “solution” to pollution.
What would happen to a California teacher who lectured her students on the vast number of failed environmental predictions? What is she were to point out some of the wild exaggerations and abysmal methods being used in evolutionary psychology? She hasn’t the protection of the Tennessee bill.
You’ll also notice the hypocrisy in people like Cohen and organizations like the ACLU. To them, science is certain, filled with “truths” they would have the State decide. They would forbid teachers (and even civilians, if they could get away with it) to speak against their version of the truth. This, they feel, makes them better people.
1Did you know that there were some versions of “creationism” which are perfectly compatible with evolution, geology, physics, etc.? The arguments for these are philosophical, of course. See cf. “The Sperm of Sea Urchins and the Directedness of Natural Processes“.