Tag: Tennessee

Tennessee passes law allowing creationism in the classroom

By Phil Plait | April 11, 2012 8:13 am

Well, that’s it then. Tennessee’s governor, William Haslam, allowed a clearly antiscience bill to pass into law. It is now legal to essentially teach creationism in Tennessee public school classrooms.

You can read about the background of all this in an earlier post. The TN House and Senate both passed this terrible, terrible bill, and Governor Haslam allowed it to beome law, saying,

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. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.

This is, to not to put too fine a point on it, a crock. The legislation is designed specifically to allow creationism to be taught in classes, something the courts have clearly stated is against the law, and which just as clearly is unacceptable in our schools.

Governor Haslam, I’ll note, didn’t actually sign the bill into law. In Tennessee, a bill passes by default if the governor takes too long to sign it. By not vetoing it directly, he allowed it to pass. That action, combined with his wishy-washy statement, makes it clear he is doing this for purely political motives. This way, it’s a law and the creationists are happy, and if people accuse him of weakening the Constitution and allowing a specific religion to be taught in public schools — which he’s doing — then he can say he didn’t actually sign the bill. Nice, huh?

So instead of doing the right thing, he has allowed students in classrooms across Tennessee to undergo religious indoctrination, despite a prior and clear Supreme Court ruling making it illegal.

And for this those of you who will want to split hairs and say this law only makes it legal to teach scientific weaknesses, and doesn’t make it legal to teach creationism, I call baloney. There is zero doubt — zero — that this will be used to teach creationism in the classroom under the guise of demonstrating (what they claim, wrongly, as) weaknesses in evolutionary science. [Update: Steve Novella at the NeuroLogica blog has more details on this.]

So, unless and until someone fights this law and takes it to court to preserve the scientific integrity of the Tenessee public school classroom…

MORE ABOUT: creationism, Tennessee

Tennessee legislature boldly sets the science clocks back 150 years

By Phil Plait | March 22, 2012 9:59 am

The Tennessee legislature — apparently jealous that the people running Louisiana are hogging all the laughing stock — is possibly about to pass an antiscience bill designed specifically to make it easier for teachers to allow creationism in their classroom.

The bill passed the House last year, but then a similar bill was put on hold in the Senate. Unfortunately, it was put to the Senate floor earlier this week and passed. It will have to be reconciled with the House bill, but it’s expected to pass. It’ll have to then go to the Governor to sign it into law.

Basically, the bill will make sure teachers can discuss creationism in the classroom, as well as global warming denialism. The House version states,

This bill prohibits the state board of education and any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or principal or administrator from prohibiting 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, such as evolution and global warming.

That whole "strengths and weaknesses" is for all intent and purpose a lie; we’ve seen it many times before. Of course science has strengths and weaknesses, but what these people are looking to do is be able to say any kind of antiscience rhetoric in the classroom and not get called on it. What the bill should call for is legislators to be tested on the strengths and weaknesses of their creationist beliefs that clearly contradict what’s known about the real world. Or, better yet, how what they’re trying to do violates the Constitution of the United States.

I would pay good money to sit and listen to that.

I also wonder how the Tennessee lawmakers would feel if, say, teachers used this potential law to teach about Islam, or astrology, or Wiccan beliefs. That would be interesting indeed.

If you want more, Josh Rosenau has a great summary, as does Cara Santa Maria at the Huffington Post, and, of course, the NCSE. It’s not clear to me that the Governor will sign this bill; Josh’s post has more on that. But even if he doesn’t, all those creationist climate change deniers will simply try again in some different way.

If you live in Tennessee, you should let the Governor know how you feel, and right away. Otherwise…


Related Posts:

Antiscience bill passes Tennessee House vote
Update: Tennessee postpones education-wrecking bill
Louisiana fights back against creationist legislators
Jindal dooms Louisiana
Heroes of Dover

Update: Tennessee postpones education-wrecking bill

By Phil Plait | April 25, 2011 7:00 am

Some (kinda) good news: a bill designed to promote the teaching of creationism in Tennessee public schools has been put on hold until at least next year.

Earlier in April, the Tennessee House passed this bill, which basically says teachers can help students find weaknesses in scientific theories — and while that sounds legit on its surface, it’s actually very thinly veiled creationist rhetoric for attacking evolution (read the link above for more on this).

To be made into state law, the Tennessee Senate would have to pass the bill as well, but they decided to put it on hold. The thing is, it was tabled basically due to scheduling and not because the bill is antiscience, antireality, and potentially unconstitutional. I imagine when the Senate reconvenes at the next session it’ll pop right back up, as these creationist whack-a-mole bills do. After all, this is the same legislature that grossly mischaracterized a quote by Einstein to support creationism.

So science education in the Volunteer State is safe… for now. Therefore:

MORE ABOUT: creationism, Tennessee

Some good news, some bad news, and some background

By Phil Plait | April 19, 2011 12:30 pm

With the seeming onslaught of attacks on reality coming from all over the country, I hate to add to the bad news… but I will because the bad news shows just how silly antiscience legislators can be, and there’s also some good news to go along with it. So that’s nice. And I’ll end with an article that shows us why those of us in the reality-based community have such a hard time pushing back against nonsense.


The Good:

A couple of years ago Louisiana passed a law designed to destroy good science, allowing teachers to use creationist materials in the classroom, despite this being a clear violation of the US Constitution. So why is this good news? Because a bill has been filed to repeal that awful law. Even cooler, this bill came about because of efforts by a high school student in Baton Rouge named Zack Kopplin, who has been working with the Louisiana Coalition for Science.

In high school I was busy goofing off with my friends. Zack Kopplin is busy taking on the entire Louisiana State legislature.

Good on him! And while it’s still in the early stages of this fight, it shows that grassroots efforts can get things done.


The Bad:

Read More

Antiscience bill passes Tennessee House vote

By Phil Plait | April 8, 2011 7:00 am

A bill clearly intended to promote and protect antiscience passed in the Tennessee State House yesterday, by a vote of 70 – 23.

Let that sink in. 70 to 23.

The bill is another in a long series of creationist (and broadened into other antiscience topics) wedge bills designed to weaken the teaching of real science in public schools. The summary makes that clear:

This bill prohibits the state board of education and any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or principal or administrator from prohibiting 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, such as evolution and global warming.

On the surface this sounds like legit science; after all, science thrives on understanding the weaknesses in ideas so they can be improved. But if you read that last part, conservative antiscience rears its head: the two specific cases mentioned are evolution and global warming.

That doesn’t sound like real science is the motivation behind this bill — and reading quotes by its supporters confirms it. What this really means is that if a teacher wants to declare the Earth is 6000 years old (or make some other clearly wrong ideologically-based claim), that teacher cannot be stopped.

Similar antiscience bills (usually given the Orwellian title of "academic freedom bills") have been created in Oklahoma (though defeated, barely), Mississippi, and in Louisiana, where creationist and part-time exorcist Governor Bobby Jindal signed it into state law.

So this bill passed the House, but it still has to pass the Tennessee Senate. They have their own version up for vote targeted for April 20. If you live in Tennessee, I urge you to go to the NCSE website, read up on this, and then write your local representative.

Because if this bill passes into law, then…

This will end well

By Phil Plait | February 4, 2010 7:32 am

"Tennessee high schools will be getting guidelines from the state next fall on teaching the Bible as part of a secular curriculum".

Yes, it’s a comparative literature class. Yes, it’s legal. Yes, I would even approve of this… in theory. In practice?

Right. Read the title of this post again.

Still, in better news, you may remember the Mississippi anti-evolution bill I wrote about, submitted to the legislature there as an obvious wedge for creationism. Well, it died in committee, so the Magnolia State gets itself a reprieve. I’m glad; I didn’t have a "Mississippi: Doomed" graphic ready yet. But I’ll keep the draft waiting just in case.

Tip o’ the coming ACLU lawsuit to Fark.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Religion
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