Concerns mount about Oklahoma's antiscience bill

03.06.2017

Two additional national organizations have expressed their concern to the Oklahoma Senate about Senate Bill 393, which would empower science denial in the classroom.

In a March 2, 2017, letter, the American Institute of Biological Sciences described (PDF) SB 393 as "bad for science, science education, and the future economic health and well[-]being of Oklahoma." The letter explained, "If Senate Bill 393 is enacted, it is our understanding that it would permit teachers to miseducate Oklahoma's students about any topic a teacher deems controversial, and would prevent state and local administrators from intervening. Litigation will almost certainly result if this bill is passed, and that will do little more than cost the state money that could be better used to support teachers and students," adding, "Importantly, there is no scientific controversy about the legitimacy of evolution or global climate change."

In a March 6, 2017, letter, the National Coalition Against Censorship warned (PDF), "In contrast to its title, the bill is likely to undermine the integrity of science education by allowing classroom instruction to deviate from, and possibly contradict, professionally developed science standards." The letter explained, "The First Amendment has never been interpreted to allow, much less require, the dilution of educational standards. Scientists and science educators should determine together what should be taught in science class. Individual teachers should not be permitted to contravene that determination in favor of their own personal opinions; nor should legislators enact a bill that would allow or encourage them to do so."

The National Association of Biology Teachers, as NCSE previously reported, already expressed its opposition to SB 393 in a February 15, 2015, letter, which warned (PDF), "The wording of this legislation easily allows non-scientific and false explanations for scientific topics to be inappropriately introduced into the science classroom." The letter explained, "NABT is confident that the students of Oklahoma are best served when scientific integrity is maintained in the science classroom. We respectfully request that the state reject SB 393 in support of science education that imparts to students an understanding of science based on the key components of the nature of science and content agreed upon by scientists and professional educators."

SB 393 passed the Senate Education Committee on February 27, 2017. It is not yet scheduled to be heard on the floor of the Senate; March 23, 2017, is the last day on which it could pass the Senate.