The latest report grading and ranking educational policy and performance shows Arizona has climbed to 43rd place -- from 44th last year, out of 51 (the 50 states plus DC). Nothing to be proud of, certainly, but at least the downward spiral has been halted, for the time being. It would take some work to rival the state in dead-last place, South Dakota.
And yet, it would seem the latest crop of Republican legislation out of Phoenix is out to do just that, looking to make a bad situation worse -- by attacking our schools' science courses for the sake of religion.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) explains the new antiscience bill, SB 1213:
A new antiscience bill was introduced in the Arizona Senate. A typical instance of the "academic freedom" strategy for undermining the teaching of evolution and climate change, Senate Bill 1213 would, if enacted, call on state and local education administrators to endeavor to "create an environment in 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 to "assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies."This is a laundry list of topics in science classes that fundamentalist xians still try to attack. I'm sure they would like to lump in, say, geology or radiometric dating, too. But in evolution, they have science that bothers more than young-earth creationists. And the "strengths and weaknesses" language in the bill...
The targets of the bill are explicitly listed in a section that presents as legislative findings that "1. An important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to become intelligent, productive and scientifically informed citizens. 2. The teaching of some scientific subjects, including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy. 3. Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such topics."
Teachers shall be allowed to help pupils 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....is recognized as a common creationist tactic due to their frequent attempts to legislate it, to 'teach the controversy' where none exists.
According to the National Center for Science Education, the phrase, like 'Teach the controversy' and 'Critical Analysis of Evolution', is an attempt in a series of legal and political tactics adopted by intelligent design advocates to encourage educators to teach fallacious information — that a controversy exists among scientists over whether evolution has occurred.This sort of legislation was passed in Texas, at least for awhile, and documented as a move to appease creationists. They have tried many variations on the same theme of attacking science curricula that offend their delicate religious sensibilities. Also documented are an attempt by a creationist lawyer to introduce it in California in 2003 and 2004; in 2008 by the Discovery Institute, an organization advocating 'intelligent design' on behalf of xian creationists; and also in Missouri in 2009, and Tennessee in 2011.
These legislators frequently claim that their efforts have nothing to do with religion, although it's tough to dispute it when the Discovery Institute is on their side. Even so, this new bill in Arizona has the falsehood written into the bill:
C. This section protects only the teaching of scientific information and does not promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.And just like the fake controversy itself, and the fakery of 'intelligent design,' creationism in sheep's clothing, there's no good reason to believe this, either. Consequently, I looked up my state senator here, thankfully a Democrat and not on this bill's list of sponsors, and contacted them to request their opposition to this legislative drek. Hopefully others in our mad state will do the same, and put a stop to this nonsense. I'd hate to have to trust in Jan Brewer's veto to protect our schools.
Usually, it's Republicans who are anti-government, bemoaning its intervention and interference. But for all their desire for precious freedom, give them power and they discover an agenda to pursue. In this case, based on magical thinking. Funny how that works. And instead of some misguided libertarian, I'm the one left thinking that we'd be better off if they just left us alone.
(tip of the hat to Pharyngula for pointing out this latest disappointment from Phoenix.)