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Tennessee to teach the controversy

by SixNein
Tags: controversy, teach, tennessee
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Danger
#109
Apr10-12, 06:48 PM
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Quote Quote by SixNein View Post
*SixNine puts on his party hat to celebrate the new law
How could that guy have possibly sustained a campaign for Governor when he doesn't even have the balls to shoot down ******** like this? He doesn't deserve to hold office.
SixNein
#110
Apr10-12, 08:20 PM
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How could that guy have possibly sustained a campaign for Governor when he doesn't even have the balls to shoot down ******** like this? He doesn't deserve to hold office.
On the bright side, TN just got published in nature:
http://www.nature.com/news/tennessee...es-law-1.10423
ThomasT
#111
Apr11-12, 03:59 AM
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I've asked, several times, exactly how this bill might be misused. What might this bill enable that isn't already being done? No replies to that question yet.

Quote Quote by Governor of Tennessee
“I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers,” Haslam said in a written statement explaining his equivocal stance. “However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.”
I agree with the governor's statement. The bill is unimportant. In fact, it's a non sequitur. There's nothing in it, that I see, that can be used to promote the promulgation of religious myth as truth. So, I'm wondering, what's the problem? Of course I'm also wondering why the need for such legislation?

Maybe I'm missing something. If this bill can be legally misused (to promote religion), then, please, somebody, tell me how. So far I've noted a few posts against this legislation, but nobody has addressed my question.

So, ok, maybe it's just another bit of nonessential legislation -- the sort of thing that elected officials sometimes engage as opposed to addressing the really difficult social issues.

Quote Quote by Opponents of the Bill
But opponents say that the real goal of the bill is apparent from the list of subjects it singles out. “HB 368 and other bills like it are a permission slip for teachers to bring creationism, climate-change denial and other non-science into science classrooms,” says Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, California.
But all of this was possible, and apparently done, before and without this legislation. The bill in question says nothing about this stuff. So, I wonder, what's the point? If it can, and is intended to be, misused (to promote religious views), then exactly how can it be used that way?
Ryan_m_b
#112
Apr11-12, 06:33 AM
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Quote Quote by ThomasT View Post
I've asked, several times, exactly how this bill might be misused. What might this bill enable that isn't already being done? No replies to that question yet.
PZ Myers has on his blog an open letter from students at the University of Tennessee that aptly points out some of the biggest flaws:
Quote Quote by Students of UT
Dear Governor Haslam,

We are writing to you regarding HB368/SB893. As graduate students at the University of Tennessee, we strongly believe that this Bill represents a step backward for Tennessee and our state’s ascending recognition for Science and STEM education. We are specifically writing to address the nature of the Bill itself, which we feel was not adequately discussed during either the House or Senate hearings and misrepresents the undivided consensus among anthropologists, biochemists, biologists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, genome scientists, geographers, and molecular biologists.

If given a cursory reading, this Bill appears to advocate for intellectual freedom in the classroom and hence would seem prudent. However, it is abundantly clear from both a careful reading and from the testimony at hearings that the intent of this Bill is to encourage teachers to call into question universally accepted scientific principles.

In Section 1(a)(2) of SB893, the generally assembly states “The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy;”

We agree. However, this “controversy” is not scientific. The controversy to which the Bill alludes is the reluctance of non-scientists to accept these principles due to certain religious and political beliefs. This can be the only explanation for the inclusion of human cloning in the Bill. Human cloning is solely an ethical issue. There is no scientific debate on how to clone an organism or whether genetic clones can be created. It is a fact that humans can create genetic clones. Only the ethics of the issue is at stake.

Scientific evidence supporting the occurrence of biological evolution, global climate change, and the chemical origin of life are not controversial among scientists. Scientists universally accept these principles based on their predictability and the overwhelming evidence supporting them. Among scientists, the controversy exists in the details such as how changes in temperatures will affect biodiversity or what evolutionary forces
regulate the speciation process. This type of discussion is due to the very nature of science, which requires the constant acquisition and analysis of data.

However, this is not the controversy to which the Bill speaks. The bill later states, in section 1(c), that “The state board of education . . . shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.” This wording seems to imply that the controversy for these aforementioned subjects lies in the scientific realm where in reality they lie only in the political and religious ones.

We fear that this bill only ostensibly supports “critical thinking” in Tennessee’s classrooms. Instead, by implying that subjects such as evolution and global warming are “debatable”, this bill achieves the exact opposite of its purported goal. This is tantamount to encouraging educators to suggest students in science classes disregard the very nature of the scientific process and ignore factual data in favor of the beliefs of some individuals. Scientists cannot ignore data in favor of personal biases. If they did, they would be discredited as non-objective.

This Bill is a step backwards and would do irreparable harm to the development of STEM education in this state. As university educators, we continually face the challenge of losing students’ interests in science courses when they arrive at The University of Tennessee because they are frustrated by their lack of sufficient preparation. Many of them know very little about evolution by natural selection or the mechanisms of global climate change. We hope that you see that as with the legislatures who passed this bill, we too are concerned about the education of children in Tennessee.

This passage of this Bill has the potential to cost the state dearly in terms of lost revenue, a poorly trained scientific workforce, and an exodus of scientists and educators who do not wish to have their discipline diluted with non-scientific biases. We fear that calling into question scientific support of foundations to biological theory will cripple the ability of Tennessee’s students to become functional scientists, doctors, professionals, and contributing members of many growing fields.

We ask that you please thoughtfully consider our position, and veto this bill. Thank you for your time.

Signed,
Graduate Researchers in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolutionary Biology (G.R.E.B.E)
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

[56 grad students from EEB and other departments signed the petition]
The problem is that the bill pushes for/allows science classes to teach the social controversies behind various scientific disciplines but does not have any provision to make it clear that these will purely be taught in a social sense with strong emphasis on the scientific validity.
daveb
#113
Apr11-12, 08:15 AM
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Quote Quote by Ryan_m_b View Post
The problem is that the bill pushes for/allows science classes to teach the social controversies behind various scientific disciplines but does not have any provision to make it clear that these will purely be taught in a social sense with strong emphasis on the scientific validity.
This is the crux of the matter - it's OK to teach the controversies as a social controversies - just not scientific ones. I couldn't find any acacdemic content standard that mentions controveries in the Tennessee content standards. Ohio used to have an academic content standard that specifically addressed this (something along the lines of "learn how scientific advances can create social and political controversies"), but they recently changed that content standard - I have to wonder if perhaps Ohio is caving in to the creationists as well.
Ryan_m_b
#114
Apr11-12, 08:21 AM
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I think it's very important for social and political consequences of science to be taught so long as it is taught purely in that context and hand-in-hand with teaching why the science is valid. It is also important to teach controversies within science but to make sure that the difference between this and the former is crystal clear. This bill makes no provision for that and given the suspect way it is worded and the history of the creationist movement in Tennessee I can't see this as any more than another wedge strategy.
SixNein
#115
Apr11-12, 07:53 PM
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Quote Quote by Ryan_m_b View Post
I think it's very important for social and political consequences of science to be taught so long as it is taught purely in that context and hand-in-hand with teaching why the science is valid. It is also important to teach controversies within science but to make sure that the difference between this and the former is crystal clear. This bill makes no provision for that and given the suspect way it is worded and the history of the creationist movement in Tennessee I can't see this as any more than another wedge strategy.
I think we lost quite a lot of ground in Tennessee. The bill was written very carefully to avoid the establishment clause based upon recent court rulings on the matter. If this is indeed the case, it can only be challenged on a case by case basis. I could be wrong, and the courts could see through this device and strike it down, but I think it is improbable. They put some extra subjects like human cloning in it so that it wouldn't look like it was focused on evolution (I think it was dover that brought that up), and they put in several religious clauses.

So your left with political controversies = scientific controversies.
ThomasT
#116
Apr11-12, 08:56 PM
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Quote Quote by Ryan_m_b View Post
The problem is that the bill pushes for/allows science classes to teach the social controversies behind various scientific disciplines ...
Where does it do that? (The bill is reproduced below for easy reference.)

What I take from it is that it says that the teaching of some scientific subjects can cause controversy (not surprising in a Bible Belt state such as Tennessee), that some teachers might not be sure of how to handle that (due to real or imagined threats from the disciples of Jehovah/Yahweh??), and that the governing authorities will help teachers to conduct unbiased presentations of scientific material, teach the scientific method, and reply to obviously social or religious based criticism of scientific theories, hypotheses, and statements of fact in a reasonable and respectful manner.

Some have a different take on the bill. But, just looking at the literal content of the bill, I don't see how it could possibly be used to promote opinions based on religious orientation over opinions based on scientific research.

-------------------------------------------

(a) The general assembly finds that:
(1) An important purpose of science education is to inform students about
scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary
to becoming intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens;
(2) The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to,
biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human
cloning, can cause controversy; and
(3) Some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how
they should present information on such subjects.

(b) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school
governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public
elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor 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.

(c) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school
governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public
elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist
teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses
scientific controversies. Toward this end, 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.

(d) Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary
school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any
public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any
teacher in a public school system of this state from helping 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.

(e) This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not
be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination
for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination
for or against religion or non-religion.
SixNein
#117
Apr11-12, 11:40 PM
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Quote Quote by ThomasT View Post
Where does it do that? (The bill is reproduced below for easy reference.)

What I take from it is that it says that the teaching of some scientific subjects can cause controversy (not surprising in a Bible Belt state such as Tennessee), that some teachers might not be sure of how to handle that (due to real or imagined threats from the disciples of Jehovah/Yahweh??), and that the governing authorities will help teachers to conduct unbiased presentations of scientific material, teach the scientific method, and reply to obviously social or religious based criticism of scientific theories, hypotheses, and statements of fact in a reasonable and respectful manner.
You are making assumptions about the meaning of controversy.

If a teacher finds the subject controversial for religious or political reasons, what does the bill authorize the teacher to do?
ThomasT
#118
Apr12-12, 12:14 AM
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Quote Quote by SixNein View Post
You are making assumptions about the meaning of controversy.
I don't know what you mean.

Quote Quote by SixNein View Post
If a teacher finds the subject controversial for religious or political reasons, what does the bill authorize the teacher to do?
" ... 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."
SixNein
#119
Apr12-12, 02:17 AM
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Quote Quote by ThomasT View Post
I don't know what you mean.

" ... 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."
You are assuming the teacher wishes to defend any particular science.
ThomasT
#120
Apr12-12, 02:27 AM
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Quote Quote by SixNein View Post
You are assuming the teacher wishes to defend any particular science.
I'm just asking exactly how the bill might be used to promote religious opinions over scientific ones. So far nobody's answered, or even addressed, that question.
SixNein
#121
Apr12-12, 02:35 AM
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Quote Quote by ThomasT View Post
I'm just asking how the bill might be used to promote religious opinions over scientific ones. So far nobody's answered, or even addressed, that question.
Depends upon what you mean by religious opinions. Do you mean endorsements of religion or religiously motivated opinions?

The bill does not allow endorsements. But creationist arguments short of endorsements would be permitted.

For example, go here:
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/list.html

Many of those arguments would be legit under this bill. Obviously, the ones directly endorsing a creator would not. They would have to stop short of claiming a creator.
leroyjenkens
#122
Apr12-12, 08:38 AM
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Toward this end, 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.
Scientific weaknesses of what theories? I'm assuming that means evolution, since that's the only theory that was mentioned. What weaknesses are there in the theory of evolution?
Q_Goest
#123
Apr12-12, 11:43 AM
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Quote Quote by ThomasT View Post
I'm just asking exactly how the bill might be used to promote religious opinions over scientific ones. So far nobody's answered, or even addressed, that question.
Hi ThomasT. The video provided in the OP shows how lawmakers are interpreting this bill which is no doubt, a bit different than how you are reading it. What they are saying is that evolution is controversial which they've written into paragraph (2) along with a few other topics they don't like. Here's the statement made in the bill:
(2) The teaching of some scientific subjects, including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy; and ...
So basically, this is a bill which states that teachers shall be allowed (not prohibited is the wording in the bill) to help students critique evolution and other "controversial" scientific theories. If you're a creationist working as a teacher, this bill offers you the opportunity to say to your class that evolution is not a proven fact, that it's controversial and should not be taken as the only possible theory regarding how various species came into being on this planet. It doesn't allow you to teach creationism but it does allow you as a teacher to suggest that evolution is not accepted by the scientific community (controversial) and other theories are potentially the correct ones.

The bill stops short of forcing teachers to say that evolution is controversial. It doesn't say teachers are required to state that evolution is not widely accepted. It does however, offer the individual teacher the right to suggest this and that's what the creationists are after. Listed in the bill are the rights the teacher has to say evolution is controversial:
(c) ... Toward this end, 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.

(d) Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authrity, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping 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.
That's where the problem lies. The problem is that it gives teachers a legal right so critique evolution. Teachers are being given a legal right to suggest that evolution is not how species came about on this planet. "So what" little Johnny might ask, "are the other theories of how people came into being?" I'm sure the teacher will field this question with zest if they believe in creationism.
Hobin
#124
Apr12-12, 02:27 PM
P: 194
A well-written reply, Q_Goest.
ThomasT
#125
Apr12-12, 05:34 PM
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Quote Quote by Q_Goest View Post
The problem is that it gives teachers a legal right to critique evolution.
I just watched the video. It improved my perspective on this. It will be interesting to see if this leads to more teachers introducing intelligent design and creationism into science classes. The bill is worded vaguely enough that it can be interpreted to allow that, while avoiding any lawsuits that might happen if it required that ID and creationism be presented in science classes.

But suppose that some group of scientists decided to challenge (what I assume is a more or less common practice in Tennessee schools of) the presentation of ID and creationism in science classes, on the premise that ID and creationism aren't scientific but rather religiously based positions. Would any lawsuit like that be possible?
D H
#126
Apr12-12, 05:55 PM
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Quote Quote by Q_Goest View Post
That's where the problem lies. The problem is that it gives teachers a legal right so critique evolution. Teachers are being given a legal right to suggest that evolution is not how species came about on this planet. "So what" little Johnny might ask, "are the other theories of how people came into being?" I'm sure the teacher will field this question with zest if they believe in creationism.
According to a recent survey (http://www.livescience.com/11656-13-...ism-class.html), about 13% of high school biology teachers already advocate for creationism in their biology classes, 28% actively teach evolution, while 60% just don't touch evolution or creation. It's just too controversial given the weird beliefs in this country.

Those silent teachers are just as much a win for creationists as are the 13%. Maybe more so. That 13% will eventually result in a lawsuit.


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