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Good news for science education in Alabama

Earlier this year, the Republican dominated Alabama legislature tried to enact a bill, House Bill 133, that would have established a scheme to allow high school credit for creationism. HB 133 would have authorized  “local boards of education to include released time religious instruction as an elective course for high school students.” The purpose of the bill was to teach creation “science” as equivalent to evolution. The bill died in the legislature, since it did not come to a floor vote before the legislature adjourned on May 16, 2012.

According to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE),

…The Birmingham News (February 17, 2012) later reported that the bill’s sponsor, Blaine Galliher (R-District 30)introduced the bill at the behest of Joseph Kennedy, a former teacher who “was fired in 1980 for reading the Bible and teaching creationism at Spring Garden Elementary School when parents of the public school sixth-grade students objected and he refused to stop.” Kennedy indicated that he and his supporters were poised to offer a course on creationism in their local school district, using a Bible with notes by the Institute for Creation Research’s Henry Morris to “give students good sound scientific reasons to support their faith in the seven-day creation and the young Earth,” if the bill passed.

Generally, released-time programs for religious education are constitutional, if the education meets certain requirements such holding the courses off school property and no awarding of course credit. HB 133 would have allowed local boards of education to award course credit for attending classes in religious education. Beyond constitutional questions, the Alabama Board of Education opposed the previous incarnation of the bill that was introduced in 2011.

The NCSE also reported that,

HB 133 was passed by the House Education Policy Committee on February 29, 2012, and was expected to receive a floor vote in the House shortly thereafter. The Alabama Academy of Science issued a position statement in March 2012, saying that HB 133 “would undermine the science instruction that students receive on campus and which is presently guided by the Alabama Course of Study in Science” and that “the introduction of classroom subject content through the political process not only violates the academic freedom of the subject specialists to determine relevant and scientifically sound concepts, but also represents an inappropriate and potentially dangerous precedent for American public education.”

It’s good to know that sometimes even in the Bible Belt, there are occasional pieces of good news in the battle to keep evolution denialism out of schools.

Michael Simpson
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