The last week has generated plenty of news concerning bad bills in the Oklahoma legislature. Without a doubt, the proposal to eliminate APUSH by defunding the program is troubling as is the subsequent mischaracterization of the entire Advanced Placement program as a “national curriculum” that should not be taught in Oklahoma.
With 600 bills filed that relate to education there is a lot of mischief to track. But science teachers MUST NOT loose track of three proposals that will directly impact the teaching and learning of science in Oklahoma if passed.
HB 1537 by Thomsen would replace the current (less than a year-old) science standards with new science standards to be produced by the 2016-2017 academic year. Please recall that during the process in which the Common Core was repealed, the legislature gave itself the right to conduct a line-by-line review of any future standards and force changes in contact standards and objectives with which they disagree. Thomsen’s bill will force science into that disruptive, politically charged process now, rather than 6 years hence as is currently scheduled. How many scientists or educators are there in the legislature? How informed do you think that process is going to be? All of the decisions and purchases made for the curriculum materials process currently under way would be at risk.
HB 1537 has been assigned to the House Common Education Committee. Please contact the committee members and let them know how you feel about the bill. Emails should summarize you bottom-line position about the bill (Oppose HB 1537). Here is contact info for that committee:
Ann Coody, Chair, 557-7398, email@example.com
Michael Rogers, Vice Chair, 557-7362, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chad Caldwell, 557-7317, email@example.com
Ed Cannaday, 557-7375, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dennis Casey, 557-7344, email@example.com
Donnie Condit, 557-7376, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Fisher, 557-7311, email@example.com
Katie Henke, 557-7361, firstname.lastname@example.org
John Paul Jordan, 557-7352, email@example.com
Jeannie McDaniel, 557-7334, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Nelson, 557-7335, email@example.com
Jadine Nollan, 557-7390, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shane Stone, 557-7397, email@example.com
Chuck Strohm, 557-7331, firstname.lastname@example.org
Senate Bill 665, Oklahoma Science Education Act by Brecheen directly attacks the teaching of sound science. The National Center for Science Education described the long history of this bill and the prior attempts by Senator Brecheen to disrupt science education on Oklahoma:
“Senate Bill 665 (document), styled the Oklahoma Science Education Act, is the third antiscience bill of the year. SB 665 would, if enacted, in effect encourage science teachers with idiosyncratic opinions to teach anything they pleased — proponents of creationism and climate change denial are the usual intended beneficiaries of such bills — and discourage responsible educational authorities from intervening. No scientific topics are specifically identified as controversial, but the fact that the sole sponsor of SB 665 is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who introduced similar legislation that directly targeted evolution in previous legislative sessions, is suggestive.
SB 665 would require state and local educational authorities to “assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies” and permit teachers 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”; it would prevent such authorities from “prohibit[ing] any teacher in a public school district in this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.”
In late 2010, Brecheen announced his intention to file antievolution legislation in the Durant Daily Democrat (December 19, 2010): “Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors are being ignored. … Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific findings[,] is incomplete and unacceptable.” In a later column in the newspaper (December 24, 2010), he indicated that his intention was to have creationism presented as scientifically credible, writing, “I have introduced legislation requiring every publically funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution using the known science, even that which conflicts with Darwin’s religion.”
What Brecheen in fact introduced in 2011, Senate Bill 554, combined a version of the now familiar “academic freedom” language — referring to “the scientific strengths [and] scientific weaknesses of controversial topics … [which] include but are not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution” — with a directive for the state board of education to adopt “standards and curricula” that echo the flawed portions of the state science standards adopted in Texas in 2009 with respect to the nature of science and evolution. SB 554 died in committee. In 2012, Brecheen took a new tack with Senate Bill 1742, modeled in part on the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act; SB 1742 likewise died in committee.
In 2013, Brecheen modified his approach again. Senate Bill 758 followed the lead of Tennessee’s “monkey law” (as it was nicknamed by House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh), enacted (as Tenn. Code Ann. 49-6-1030) over the protests of the state’s scientific and educational communities in 2012. The major difference is that SB 758 omitted the monkey law’s statement of legislative findings, which cites “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” as among the topics that “can cause controversy” when taught in the science classroom of the public schools. The bill died in the Senate Education Committee.
In 2014, Brecheen introduced the virtually identical SB 1765. Like SB 758, it died in the Senate Education Committee, but not before eliciting opposition from the American Institute of Biological Sciences, which described the bill as “bad for science and bad for science education,” and the National Association of Biology Teachers, which warned that it “could easily permit non-science based discussions of ‘strengths and weaknesses’ to take place in science classrooms, confusing students about the nature of science.” Since Brecheen’s latest effort, SB 665, is virtually identical to SB 758 in 2013 and SB 1765 in 2014, it is sure to provoke a similar reaction.”
SB 665 has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee. Please contact the committee members and let them know you oppose the bill. Here is contact info for that committee:
John Ford, Chair, 521-5634, email@example.com
Ron Sharp, Vice Chair, 521-5539, firstname.lastname@example.org
Earl Garrison, 521-5533, email@example.com
Jim Halligan, 521-5572, firstname.lastname@example.org
Clark Jolley, 521-5622,email@example.com
Susan Paddack, 521-5541, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marty Quinn, 521-5555, email@example.com
Wayne Shaw, 521-5574, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Smalley, 521-5547, email@example.com
John Sparks, 521-5553, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary Stanislawski, 521-5624, email@example.com
Roger Thompson, 521-5588, firstname.lastname@example.org
SB 21, the “The Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” by Allen (UPDATE. SB 21 passed the Judiciary committee on February 24th on a 7-2 vote. The bills title was stuck, which will lead to a re-work of it’s language. Observers at the meeting reported a lack of discussion, although committee members had been provided with abundant information about the bill, including the effects of a similar bill enacted in Texas, Senator Floyd did speak against the bill.)
Last legislative session and every year since 2008 we have written in this space about bills like SB 21. This year’s version of “The Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” is by Senator Allen, but it is virtually identical to past bills filed by Representative Sally Kern (R- Oklahoma City).
Last February we wrote this about that session’s version of this bad idea:
“That bill was itself a reintroduced edition of HB 2211, which had failed the previous year. Nothing if not persistent, Rep. Kern has refiled the act this year as HB 1551, the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act”. The name and number of the bill may have changed, but the reasoning behind it is still bad. It not only singles out specific areas of scientific study as controversial, it specifies that students may not he held accountable for embracing explanations in opposition to those derived through the scientific process. Recognizing the folly of the original Kern bills, the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Science Teachers Association issued the following statement when HB 2211 was making it’s way through the Legislature. The statement is no less valid this time either:
“The Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Science Teachers Association has issued the following statement concerning HB 2211, “The Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act”, by Representative Sally Kern, which is under consideration by the Legislature.“The Oklahoma Science Teachers Association (OSTA) is dedicated to the promotion and development of high quality science education for all students in Oklahoma. The development of a scientifically literate citizenry, conversant in principles and processes of science, is essential for any state or nation to be competitive in a global economy. The effort to grow 21st century industry and agriculture, including Oklahoma’s burgeoning research in nanotechnology and biotechnology, depends on the availability of a scientifically literate workforce that understands the process of posing and testing hypotheses, logically evaluating the results, and expanding our understanding of the natural world. OSTA believes the provisions of HB 2211 hold great potential for harm to the development of scientifically literate citizens in this state. Teachers will be shackled in their efforts to guide students to explore scientific data and explanation and will be forced to give full credence and course credit to viewpoints that have no scientific data or basis. The damage to the credibility of an Oklahoma high school diploma cannot be overstated. While some might posit that examination and exploration of alternative viewpoints is appropriate in a classroom, those ideas that are not scientific and cannot be tested have no place in a science classroom. Under the provisions of this bill, teachers will be required to give full forum to non-scientific viewpoints and will be prevented from explaining that such ideas have no scientific support. Provisions currently in law and expressed in the Constitution give ample protection for religious expression within schools. The Oklahoma Science Teachers Association believes the late Harvard Paleontologist Steven J. Gould’s concept of “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” accurately reflects the interaction of science and religion; both having important, but non-interacting roles in helping us make sense of our place in the physical and spiritual world. HB 2211 actively violates that concept in a direct effort to inject religious viewpoints into public school classrooms and should not be enacted.”
NOW is the time to contact your Senator as well as members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to express you opinions about this bill.
Important note to those of you who teach in Oklahoma Public Schools… Contacting your legislator on these matters during school time and on a school district computer is not recommended. Taking action as a citizen is a spare-time activity best done on your computer using your email address at your home.
Senate Judiciary Committee Members
Senator Anthony Sykes – Chair
Senator Brian Crain – Vice Chair