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Antievolution legislation in Oklahoma
Senate Bill 554 (document), prefiled in the Oklahoma State Senate on January 19, 2011, is apparently the third antievolution bill of 2011. Interestingly, two strands of antievolution strategy intersect in SB 554.
First, echoing the still popular "academic freedom" language of antievolution legislation, the bill provides that state and local education administrators "shall not prohibit any teacher from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses of controversial topics in sciences, when being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula," where such topics "include but are not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution." The bill also provides, "No teacher shall be reassigned, terminated, disciplined or otherwise discriminated against for providing scientific information being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula."
Second, the bill requires 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, for grades eight through twelve, evolution. For example, the content of SB 554's D1, D2, D7, D9, and D10 are identical to sections 7A, 7B, 7G, 8A, and 8B of the Texas high school biology standards — all sections that were added or amended by antievolution members of the Texas state board of education, such as Don "Someone's got to stand up to experts!" McLeroy, in order to encourage the presentation of creationist claims in the science classroom. No fewer than fifty-four scientific and educational organizations opposed these revisions.
The sole sponsor of the bill is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6), who announced his intention to file antievolution legislation in a column 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 subsequent column in the Daily Democrat (December 24, 2010), he clearly 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."
SENATE BILL 554 By: Brecheen
An Act relating to school curriculum; stating legislative intent; requiring the State Board of Education to adopt certain curricular standards; providing that schools shall not prohibit teachers from providing certain information to students; protecting teachers from retaliation for providing certain information; allowing students to be held accountable for information taught in a course; defining term; providing for codification; providing for noncodification; providing an effective date; and declaring an emergency.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA:
SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law not to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes reads as follows:
It is the intent of the Legislature that students in public school receive a comprehensive education in science and learn how to compare and contrast a variety of scientific viewpoints.
SECTION 2. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 11-105.2 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
A. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 11-103.6 of Title 70 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the State Board of Education shall adopt curricular standards requiring the teaching of all relevant scientific information on the biological origins of life.
B. The State Department of Education, or any school district or school district administrator, shall not prohibit any teacher from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses of controversial topics in sciences, when being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula. Controversial topics in sciences include but are not limited to biological origins of life and biological evolution.
C. The State Board of Education shall adopt standards and curricula that require students in all science courses to:
D. The State Board of Education shall adopt standards and curricula that require students in grades eight through twelve to:
E. No teacher shall be reassigned, terminated, disciplined or otherwise discriminated against for providing scientific information being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula.
F. This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and specifically does not protect the promotion of any religion, religious doctrine, or religious belief.
G. Students may be held accountable for knowing and understanding material taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula, but they shall not be penalized in any way for subscribing to a particular position of a scientific debate.
H. For purposes of this section, “scientific information” means information derived from observation, experimentation and analysis of the natural world conducted to determine the nature of or principles behind the aspects being studied. Scientific information is not excluded from this definition solely on the basis that it coincides with the tenets of some or all religious beliefs or doctrines. This definition does exclude information based solely on religious writings, beliefs or doctrines.
SECTION 3. This act shall become effective July 1, 2011.
SECTION 4. It being immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, by reason whereof this act shall take effect and be in full force from and after its passage and approval.