Michigan academic freedom bill

The news of the passage in the House of Louisiana’s anti-evolution bill blinded me for the moment to another potential threat, this one impending in Michigan’s legislature. From the National Center for Science Education: Senate Bill 1361, and its identical counterpart House Bill 6027, both promise to require schools to “create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages pupils to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.” Sounds good to me, on the face of it. What’s the problem?

Here’s the problem: public school classrooms rarely present their students with controversial scientific issues. Such controversies are usually far beyond the scope of public school classes, which generally focus on the basics. Add to this the fact that Michigan’s education standards no doubt already include critical thinking, and the bills begin to seem superfluous. Why propose them at all?

You already know the answer: to allow educators to “teach the controversy” on evolution. Of course there is no controversy, but groups like the Discovery Institute work very hard to convince the credulous that there is. Interestingly, the DI is also behind most of these academic freedom bills. Coincidence?

If these bills pass, there is only one possible outcome. Some witless teacher will present intelligent design as legitimate science, some parents will sue the school district, and we’ll have Dover all over again. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tax dollars will be poured down the sink. If the DI really cares about education, you’d think they would stop subjecting financially strapped school districts to protracted litigation.

But the DI doesn’t really care about science education. Neither does the Louisiana Family Forum, or any of the other religious right organizations pushing intelligent design creationism. They care about creating a nation where their own narrow religious views are sponsored by the state, where science is crammed into a little box from which it can’t threaten their small-minded notions of life and the universe.

I almost feel for them. As much support as they have in the US, they’re losing, and they will continue to lose. Reality is against them.

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