NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/12/07
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A new twist for the expected antievolution bill in Indiana. And in Louisiana a controversial voucher program was ruled to be unconstitutional, while in Britain private religious schools receiving government funding are being required to present evolution.
PROSPECTIVE ANTIEVOLUTION BILL MUTATES IN INDIANA The expected antievolution bill in Indiana appears to have mutated. As NCSE previously reported, state senator Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) told the Lafayette Journal and Courier (November 10, 2012) that he planned to introduce a bill drafted by the Discovery Institute, presumably along the lines of the bills enacted in Tennessee in 2012 and Louisiana in 2008, encouraging teachers to misrepresent evolution as controversial. But now the Indianapolis Star (December 4, 2002) reports that Kruse plans "to pursue legislation that allows students to challenge teachers on issues, forcing them to provide evidence to back up their lessons." In 2011, Kruse's Senate Bill 89 would have allowed local school districts to require the teaching of creation science -- despite the Supreme Court's ruling in the 1987 case Edwards v. Aguillard that teaching creation science in public schools is unconstitutional. SB 89 passed the Senate but was amended there to delete the reference to creation science and to require reference to "Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology"; the speaker of the House of Representatives declined to let it come to a vote there, citing concerns about a potential lawsuit, and the bill died when the legislature adjourned. Describing his new idea as "a different approach," Kruse explained to the Star, "I would call it 'truth in education' to make sure that what is being taught is true ... And if a student thinks something isn't true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true." He added that the bill would delegate the exact implementation of the process to local school districts: "It's going to be written in kind of a broad way." Although Kruse was not quoted as mentioning evolution in particular, the Star seemed convinced that it was in his sights. Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association and a former biology teacher, told the Star that a teacher faced with a student's challenge to demonstrate the truth of evolution could simply "turn to the textbook and use fossils as an example." Citing the possibility of students demanding evidence of such uncontroversial facts as the moon landing, he argued that the bill, if enacted, would be unduly burdensome to teachers. "I think we've got more important things to worry about than that," he commented. "It's just another thing to add to the myriad of hoops teachers have to jump through now that take away from actual instruction." State senator Tim Skinner (D-District 38), who taught in Indiana schools for nearly a quarter century, told Indiana Public Media (December 4, 2012) that Kruse's proposal was unnecessary. "If Senator Kruse had education experience he would know that students across the country are already doing that every day in the public school classroom," Skinner said. "They question everything, and I think a teacher who's actually doing their job will answer those questions." Skinner was one of two members of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development who voted against Kruse's Senate Bill 89 in 2012. The Lafayette Journal and Courier (December 5, 2012) reported that Bob Behning (R-District 91) -- the chair of the House Education Committee, where Kruse's antievolution bill would be referred if it were to pass the Senate -- said that he "wouldn't prejudge whether he'd give this bill a hearing if it makes it through the Senate." Nevertheless, Behning was unenthusiastic about it, describing it as too broad and vague. Echoing Schnellenberger's concerns, he commented, "I don't want to do something that?s going to burden schools to the point where they?re going to spend their lives trying to validate what is assumed to be true." For the November 10, 2012, story in the Lafayette Journal and Courier, visit: http://www.jconline.com/article/20121110/COLUMNISTS30/311100042/bangert-evolution-pence For the story in the Indianapolis Star, visit: http://www.indystar.com/article/20121204/NEWS05/212040324/Indiana-senator-has-plans-other-than-creationism-bill For the story at Indiana Public Media, visit: http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/lawmaker-creationism-bill-41187/ For the December 5, 2012, story in the Lafayette Journal and Courier, visit: http://www.jconline.com/article/20121205/NEWS02/312050007/After-creationism-bill-failed-Indiana-senator-will-push-truth-education-measure And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Indiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/indiana A RULING AGAINST LOUISIANA'S VOUCHER PROGRAM Louisiana's controversial voucher program was ruled to violate the Louisiana state constitution, the Baton Rouge Advocate (December 3, 2012) reports. Part of the controversy over the program, which uses public school funds to pay for tuition and certain fees at private schools for students who attend low-performing public schools and whose family income is below a certain level, involves creationism: Zack Kopplin, the activist who organized the effort to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that of the roughly 6600 spaces available for students under the program, 1350 will be filled, as the Lafayette Independent Weekly (July 26, 2012) described it, "at private Christian schools that teach creationism and peg evolution as 'false science.'" But creationism was not at issue in the lawsuit just decided: rather, the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers along with a number of local school boards argued that the program violates the state constitution by redirecting local tax dollars from public schools to private schools. District Judge Tim Kelley agreed, ruling, "The MFP [the Minimum Foundation Program] was set up for students attending public elementary and secondary schools and was never meant to be diverted to private educational providers ... vital public dollars raised and allocated for public schools through the MFP cannot be lawfully diverted to nonpublic schools or entities." Louisiana's governor Bobby Jindal indicated that the decision will be appealed to Louisiana's Supreme Court. For the story in the Baton Rouge Advocate, visit: http://theadvocate.com/home/4557918-125/judge-to-rule-friday-in For the story in the Lafayette Independent Weekly, visit: http://www.theind.com/news/11055-kopplin-state-paying-116m-to-schools-teaching-creationism And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana CLOSING A CREATIONIST LOOPHOLE IN BRITAIN "All free schools will be forced to present evolution as a comprehensive and central tenet of scientific theory," the Guardian (November 29, 2012) reported, "following lobbying by senior scientists concerned that Christian-run institutions could exploit loopholes in the rules to present creationism as a credible theory." A relatively new phenomenon, free schools in Britain resemble charter schools in the United States, and as with charter schools, there are concerns about whether creationism is taught in institutions sponsored or operated by religious groups with creationist views. As NCSE previously reported, although the Department for Children, Education, and Schools promised to reject the application of any free school proposing to teach creationism in the science curriculum, there was widespread concern whether it was sufficient. The Guardian (September 18, 2011) noted, "A number of faith schools say that they teach creationism in religious studies but not in science and then leave students to decide," and quoted one proposal for a church-run free school, according to which creationism "[w]ill be embodied as a belief at Everyday Champions Academy, but will not be taught in the sciences." Paul Nurse, the president of the Royal Society of London, who lobbied for the tightening of the requirements, told the Guardian, "They had, quite reasonably, controlled the possibility that creationism might be taught as science, but what hadn't been protected was that evolution should be taught at all. You could have ended up, if a school was so minded, not to teach creationism in science but to discuss creationism as the basis of the origin of species in religious studies, and not talk about evolution in science studies. ... the message about evolution by natural selection could have been completely lost." According to the new requirement, free schools must "make provision for the teaching of evolution as a comprehensive, coherent and extensively evidenced theory"; the Guardian quoted the minister of education as saying, "While we have always been clear that we would expect to see evolution included in schools' science curricula, this new clause will provide more explicit reassurance that free schools will have to meet that expectation." Nurse, while admitting to still harboring personal concerns about science education in free schools, commented, "the major concern was this one and that has been dealt with by these new regulations." Writing in the Guardian (November 30, 2012), Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association applauded the new requirement as "the furthest a British government has ever gone to counter the threat of pseudoscientific creationist beliefs being taught in our state schools," but warned that it would be necessary to be vigilant to ensure the integrity of science education in British schools: "In addition to such concerns about the ability of public bodies to uphold and guarantee commitments made on paper, there are still loopholes allowing the determined to teach creationism." For the November 29, 2012, story in the Guardian, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/nov/30/free-schools-teach-evolution-ministers For the September 18, 2011, story in the Guardian, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/sep/19/scientists-demand-guidelines-creationism-schools For Andrew Copson's column in the Guardian, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/nov/30/free-schools-creationism And for NCSE's previous coverage of events abroad, visit: http://ncse.com/news/international Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution and climate education and threats to them. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/join