A new antievolution maneuver in South Carolina


A subcommittee of the South Carolina House Committee on Education and Public Works voted 3-2 on April 3, 2006, to approve Senate Bill 114, amended to direct the state board of education to approve only textbooks that "emphasize critical thinking and analysis in each academic content," The State reported (April 4, 2006). Pierce McNair, the chief lobbyist for the state department of education, was quoted [Link broken] as describing the proposal as potentially "confusing to some teachers and districts," adding, "Is he saying there should be critical analysis of all subjects? How can you critically analyze German, or algebra, or keyboarding, for that matter? The language of the bill may not fit the reality of the subject being taught."

Evolution is not explicitly mentioned in the revised bill, and the proponent of the revision, Representative Bob Walker (R-District 38), told The State, "This has nothing to do with intelligent design or creationism." Yet the Associated Press (April 5, 2006) noted [Link broken] that Walker "is a member of the EOC [Education Oversight Committee] and led efforts, along with Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, to incorporate 'critical analysis' into the biology curriculum" -- efforts that were rebuffed by the state board of education in March 2006. Interestingly, S 114 previously served as a vehicle for antievolutionism, when it contained a Fair-authored provision that would have established a South Carolina Science Standards Committee to "determine whether alternatives to evolution as the origin of species should be offered in schools"; that provision was removed in early 2005.

Representative Ken Clark (R-District 96), who voted against the revised bill, told the State, "What are the motivations behind it? ... I think it's pretty obvious, given all the talk about intelligent design." And Jim Foster, a spokesperson for the state department of education, told the Associated Press that it was "a way to get around the state board and mandate the rejection of any textbook that doesn't portray evolution as a theory in crisis," adding, "The problem is that there are no mainstream biology textbooks that portray evolution that way, because there is no scientific controversy over evolution." The revised version of the bill will still have to be approved by the full House Committee on Education -- "where scrutiny is likely," commented The State -- and then by a joint conference committee.