Oh Tennessee, you really are bound and determined to make your state hit rock bottom, it seems. The state is already among the bottom few in terms of level of education achieved by the population, and now they want to make their state even less intelligent by passing a bill that makes it easier for teachers to teach creationism.
There are so many things wrong with the bill passed Thursday in Tennessee that it's almost comical. The 70-28 passage of HB 368 is supposed to promote "critical thinking" in science class, but I would argue it does the opposite.
The Tennessee Science Teachers Association says the bill is "unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional." Indeed, that is exactly what it is. And scary, to boot. Should I choose to send my children to public schools, I don't expect them to learn religious mumbo jumbo while there. Everyone has the right to pray as they see fit in their own home, but in the schools, I expect my children to learn science. Creationism? Is not.
OK, so technically the bill doesn't say that creationism should ONLY be taught in schools, but it does elevate creationism to the same status as evolution, which is how most well-educated science scholars believe we came to be. This feels like a gigantic step backward for reason, science, and the public schools of Tennessee, which are already far behind a state like Massachusetts in terms of education.
If you want to teach your children creationism on your own time, then fine, by all means. But when you start suggesting that my children should learn something that has no basis in science or in what I believe to be intelligent discourse, then you're messing with my constitutional rights. If you want your children to learn religion, pony up the dough and send them to a religious school.
According to CBS News, the bill's provisions call upon state schools and administrators:
To create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues. Teachers shall be permitted 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.
I went to a school in the Bible belt of Ohio where I was taught evolution by a teacher who clearly wanted to be teaching creationism. I know this because she said it every day. Religion isn't rational by its very nature. If people want to raise children who have faith and who believe that Adam and Eve created man and G-d created them, then fine. But they need to learn that on their own time.
School, especially public school, is where we're taught to think rationally. Future scientists could be sitting in that classroom having their time wasted and their minds squandered on fantasy. School is the time for facts and for scientific evidence and for rationality. From this I get two distinct messages:
1.) Never move to Tennessee
2.) Always have a really good private school backup where rational thought and science are taught.
What do you think of this bill?
Image via latvian/Flickr