An Oklahoma lawmaker and his supporters will attempt to pass another bill this legislative session that, if passed, could bring religious-based creationist doctrine into public school science classrooms here.
For years, religious fundamentalists here have tried to get the state to promote and codify their narrow worldviews and philosophies about the creation of life. Will this year be the year they’re successful? On the surface, it appears they have the numbers to get the measure passed.
State Sen. Josh Brecheen, a Republican from Coalgate who lists his occupation as “motivational speaker,” has introduced this session Senate Bill 665, titled the “Oklahoma Science Education Act.”
The bill, which is coded in the legalese of disingenuous and religious fundamentalist language, states:
Teachers shall be permitted to help students 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.
The code here is the “strengths” and “weaknesses” argument, which would presumably allow, if not actually pressure, teachers to essentially refute the theory of evolution and other scientific evidence pertaining to controversial “political” issues, such as global warming. That’s the twist. There’s no controversial “scientific evidence” about these issues, only “politically controversial” arguments or rhetoric about the issues.
The intent seems quite clear. Brecheen for example, has written newspaper commentary in the past that criticizes the theory of evolution, which simply states that life forms change over time.
Oklahoma educators and progressives have faced this type of attack on the basic scientific method before, but Republicans still completely dominate state government. There’s a real chance such legislation could get passed and signed into law this year.
If Oklahoma turns its high school science classrooms into political and religious debate forums the result will be ill-informed students not ready for the rigors of college or even the contemporary world. It will mean the state will end up with fewer medical doctors and researchers. It will mean the state will only bolster its ongoing negative reputation as a backwoods place.
This legislation is an extremely anti-education bill that needs to be stopped. It has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee.
According to the organization Oklahomans For Excellence In Science Education, the bill has “ulterior motives”:
The bill is unnecessary, as its main points are effectively covered by existing Oklahoma curriculum standards. There is no indication why we need a new state law specifying what teachers already (are required to) do and have been doing for decades. While superficially mundane, the bill has ulterior motives if one knows the creationist code in which the bill is written and these motives have nothing to do with science or critical thinking.