As Ohio’s House Bill 597 makes its way through the legislature, intended to prevent students from thinking while indoctrinating them with right-wing propaganda, a paragraph that could be construed as allowing religious explanations in science has been removed and replaced with other. (See my recent post on the issue here.) Here, from my post, is the earlier paragraph and my take (quotes in italics, my interpolation in regular type):
(iii) The standards in science shall be based in core existing disciplines of biology, chemistry, and physics; incorporate grade-level mathematics and be referenced to the mathematics standards; focus on academic and scientific knowledge rather than scientific processes; and prohibit political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another.
Notice two things: the concentration on science as “knowledge” rather than a “process” (teaching the latter is in fact critically important), and the prohibition of “political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another.” What on earth does that mean? Well, you can guess. It means that you can teach all interpretations. If you teach a naturalistic explanation of evolution (which these yahoos probably see as “political” or “religious”), you must also teach the Biblical interpretation. That’s not just a guess. As i09 reports:
“One of the bill’s sponsors, State Rep. Andy Thompson (R-District 95) told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that this clause [above] prevents teachers and schools from only presenting one side of a political and scientific debate without also presenting the other side. In practice, he says, that means school districts and teachers would have the freedom to introduce religious interpretations of scientific issues into classrooms — with creationism taught alongside evolution, as well as varying views on the actual age of the Earth and whether humans and dinosaurs co-existed. Likewise, the arguments put forth by climate-change deniers could be included in science lesson plans.
Now, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, the language has been “adjusted” so that religious views can’t be taught. Here’s the new paragraph, inserted into the bill this morning:
According to the Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of the new version of House Bill 597, the latest draft of the proposed standards that would replace the Common Core:
Specifies that nothing in the academic content standards is to be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.
Well, of course we’ve seen this before. It looks better than the last paragraph, but actually it’s a license to give credibility to all “theories.” This paragraph is there for one reason only, to immunize the bill’s sponsors against charges of violating the First Amendment—of promoting either religion or nonbelief. One could, for instance, say that teaching evolution itself promulgates “nonreligious doctrine,” or “discriminates against religion,” and thus must be taught “neutrally,” with the call for criticality that is the hallmark of new bills trying to dismantle the teaching of evolution.
Ironically, seemingly without realizing what’s going on here, the Plain Dealer‘s short report includes this bit:
In its place [in place of the old bill’s words] is new language calling for critiques of strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories.
And that, O readers, is the cry of the Beleaguered Creationist: “Teach the controversy!”