Ohio supposedly makes its school standards bill more amenable to science

September 4, 2014 • 9:47 am

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!”

 

21 thoughts on “Ohio supposedly makes its school standards bill more amenable to science

  1. I’m still exhausted from arguing on FB about why evolution is supported by lots of examples, falsifiable, and makes predictions & why ID is creationism ≠ science. It’s completely exhausting and I find these people want to be ignorant.

    1. You should consider the old adage:

      Patient: “Doc, it hurts when I do this. What you do prescribe?”
      Doctor: “Don’t do that.”

      1. Yes, I knew I was asking for it yet I couldn’t stop myself. I finally explained that this was the last I would say on the matter then told FB to stop notifying me of posts. I suspect he frothily argued with himself for a while later.

          1. Yes, probably. He kept telling me that all the evidence for evolution I presented was “assertion” and “only showed that life was designed”. Ugh. Give me strength.

  2. “I’m making a turkey sandwich. Want some?”
    “Yes, but put marshmallow fluff on it.”
    “What? That doesn’t belong on a turkey sandwich! You should maybe make your own sandwich, then.”
    “No. I want marshmallow on that turkey sandwich. If you won’t put my marshmallow on your sandwich, then you can’t put any turkey on it, either.”

    And thus lunch was ruined for everyone.

  3. “Strengths and weaknesses” has the theoretical potential to be a delightfully wonderful didactic tool. Teach the strengths and weaknesses of the Flat Earth model: powerfully strong for map-making and navigating at up to regional levels but falls flat on its face at continental scales — and, at the same time, the oblate spheroid model of the Earth is useless for finding your way to the library downtown. Same thing for Euclidean geometry contrasted with Newtonian Mechanics, and Newtonian Mechanics contrasted with both Relativistic and Quantum Mechanics.

    But, even in such a context, Creationism has no pedagogic utility. It should be glossed over along with all other failed and discarded theories (astrology, alchemy, phrenology, etc.) in a section on the history of science, but that’s pretty much it.

    b&

  4. “othing in the academic content standards is to be construed to … promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion”

    So the bill’s suporters want to prevent teachers from teaching your children that beheading people in the name of sharia law is bad?

  5. Ironically, seemingly without realizing what’s going on here, the Plain Dealer‘s short report includes this bit:

    Yep, looks like the creationists snuck one right past the Plain Dealer reporter. They do have a comments section but who knows if reporters read comments sections lol.

  6. This paragraph is there for one reason only, to immunize the bill’s sponsors against charges of violating the First Amendment

    Yes, but it’s worth explaining that further, if only to highlight the evil of what these legislators are doing. If a school starts teaching creationism, gets sued, and tries to defend itself by saying it was following the law, this clause allows the legislators to throw that school administration under the bus. To say “look, we didn’t mean creationism, we said right there that we didn’t mean anything religous! So it’s not our law that’s the problem, it’s that bad administration which didn’t follow it!”

    IOW, it doesn’t immunize the government from charges or civil penalties, what it does is immunize legislators from having to pay anything or participate in suits where th government is found to be at fault.

    It’s a low, low move. Pre-emptively throwing their own administrators under the bus.

  7. Every time I see Cleveland Plain Dealer, I see it as Plains and assume car dealership.

    This is an opportunity for someone to teach what scientific rubbish ID (which, ironically, means Intellectually Disabled in NZ) is. It’s possible to do that without mentioning religion. If someone tries to bring up religion, it should be fairly easy to say you’re only going to discuss the subject from a scientific point of view.

    And as for integrating grade level mathematics, they could discuss 97% of scientists supporting a particular climate change theory. Politics doesn’t need to get a mention – just discuss the facts.

    Now I suppose someone will tell me I’m being naive to think this is possible in Ohio and similar states. I find that scary.

    1. It wouldn’t be a problem if all the teachers had a scientific worldview and, left to their own devices, wouldn’t dream of presenting religious dogma as fact. The problem is that this language permits those many teachers who are religious, and who sincerely believe that the Bible is literally true, to read from the ID playbook in class.

      Scary? Why yes.

  8. The revised version of House Bill 597 contains this language: “…focus on academic and scientific knowledge rather than scientific processes; and encourage students to analyze, critique, and review, in an objective manner, the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the standards.”

    In other words, take away “scientific processes”–the means by which scientific theories are tested–and then expect students to evaluate those theories using … well, what? Intuition? Revelation? See my rants here and here.

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