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Oklahoma bill attacks evolution and climate change

Senate Bill 1742 (document), prefiled in the Oklahoma Senate, is apparently the sixth antievolution bill of 2012, following on the heels of two bills in New Hampshire, two bills in Missouri, and one bill in Indiana. The bill would, if enacted, require the state board of education to assist teachers and administrators in promoting "critical thinking, logical analysis, open and objective discussion of scientific theories including, but not limited to, evolution, the origin of life, global warming, and human cloning" upon request of the local school district. The bill also provides that teachers "may use supplemental textbooks and instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."

SB 1742 is evidently modeled in part on the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008 as Louisiana Revised Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1; indeed, the bill itself declares, "This act is modeled on a Louisiana law which has not been invalidated by the highest court of the State of Louisiana or a federal district court," adding, "Legal challenges to academic freedom bills have historically alleged that such bills are intended to allow the teaching of creationism or intelligent design. This bill does not propose that schools teach creationism or intelligent design, rather, it is the intent to foster an environment of critical thinking in schools including a scientific critique of the theory of evolution."

The sole sponsor of SB 1742 is Josh Brecheen (R-District 6). In 2011, Brecheen introduced Senate Bill 554, which combined a different version of the "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 apparently died in committee on February 28, 2011, when a deadline for senate bills to be reported from committee passed.

Before Brecheen filed SB 554, he 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 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."

Oklahomans concerned about SB 1742 are urged to get in touch with Eric Meikle at NCSE and the grassroots organization Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education.


SENATE BILL 1742 By: Brecheen

AS INTRODUCED

An Act relating to school curriculum; creating the Oklahoma Science Education Act; providing short title; providing legislative intent; providing for the assistance of teachers in teaching scientific curriculum; promoting critical thinking; allowing for open discussion of scientific theories; directing teachers to teach certain material; allowing supplemental material to be taught; prohibiting the promotion of a particular belief system; directing the State Board of Education to adopt rules; 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 to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 11-103.12 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Oklahoma Science Education Act".

SECTION 2. NEW LAW A new section of law not to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes reads as follows:.

Recognizing the importance of critical thinking, logical analysis and objective discussion in education it is the intent of the Legislature to foster an environment in public schools where such learning occurs. This act is modeled on a Louisiana law which has not been invalidated by the highest court of the State of Louisiana or a federal district court. Legal challenges to academic freedom bills have historically alleged that such bills are intended to allow the teaching of creationism or intelligent design. This bill does not propose that schools teach creationism or intelligent design, rather, it is the intent to foster an environment of critical thinking in schools including a scientific critique of the theory of evolution.

SECTION 3. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 11-103.13 of Title 70, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

A. The State Board of Education, upon the request of a school district board of education, shall allow and assist teachers, principals, and school administrators in creating an environment within the public school system that promotes critical thinking, logical analysis, open and objective discussion of scientific theories including, but not limited to, evolution, the origin of life, global warming, and human cloning. Assistance shall include support and guidance for teachers regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review scientific theories being studied, including those enumerated in this subsection.

B. A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard science textbook and may use supplemental textbooks and instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.

C. This act shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine or set of religious beliefs.

D. The State Board of Education shall adopt rules to implement the provisions of this act.

SECTION 4. This act shall become effective July 1, 2012.

SECTION 5. 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.