One of the two anti-evolution and anti-climate change bills, introduced into the Oklahoma legislature earlier this year, died in committee. The remaining bill, HB1551, was passed by the Oklahoma House Common Education Committee in February, so may be scheduled for a floor vote soon. The surviving bill is modeled upon the Louisiana Louisiana Academic Freedom Act, which states:
…the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.
The Louisiana act then extends permission to Louisiana’s teachers to:
…help students 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.
Now, even though the Oklahoma and Louisiana creationist legislators use the term, “academic freedom,” I’m pretty certain it doesn’t mean what they think it means. Real academic freedom is meant to mean that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts (including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities) without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment. In the case of the creationists, who use the age-old technique of subverting terminology to meet their goals, academic freedom means that scholars should unconstitutionally teach religious beliefs. Though we should teach students critical thinking skills, there really is no controversy about evolution. It is about as close to a fact as we can get.
It’s sad that these states should harm the teaching of science, further lowering the scientific knowledge of our children.