New Mexico Republican Introduces Anti-Evolution Bill
The assault on science education continues:
If educators in New Mexico want to teach evolution or climate change as a “controversial scientific topic,” a new bill seeks to protect them from punishment.
House Bill 302, as it’s called, states that public school teachers who want to teach “scientific weaknesses” about “controversial scientific topics” including evolution, climate change, human cloning and — ambiguously — “other scientific topics” may do so without fear of reprimand. The legislation was introduced to the New Mexico House of Representatives on Feb. 1 by Republican Rep. Thomas A. Anderson.
Supporters of science education say this and other bills are designed to spook teachers who want to teach legitimate science and protect other teachers who may already be customizing their curricula with anti-science lesson plans.
“These bills say, ‘Oh we’re just protecting the rights of teachers,’ which on the face of it isn’t wrong. But they draw big red circles around topics like evolution and climate change as topics to be wary about,” said Joshua Rosenau, a policy and projects director at the National Center for Science Education. “It suggests this kind of science is controversial, and would protect teachers who want to teach anti-evolution and climate-change-denying lessons in classrooms.”
The bill is one of five already introduced to state legislatures this year. While more than 30 such bills have been introduced since 2004, only Louisiana adopted one as law in 2008.
Rosenau said House Bill 302 will probably never see the light of day, as New Mexico’s representatives have bigger issues to deal with, such as their constituents’ financial hardships. If it does come to a vote, however, he said its chances are slim.
The bill’s introduction comes at a time when, according to a recent study in Science, only 28 percent of U.S. teachers overtly teach scientific concepts of evolution and 13 percent advocate creationism. Some 60 percent water down teaching evolution to avoid confrontation by students and parents.
“Supporters of anti-science education are trying to give cover to what’s already happening out there,” Rosenau said.
It wasn’t that long ago that legislators who introduced bill like this were a laughingstock. Now, it seems to be becoming more and more common. I can’t understand how anyone can think we’re giving students a 21st Century education when we’re not teaching basic science for fear that it might “offend” someone whose mind is still stuck in the 15th Century.