Blow against education

The Tennessee legislature passed a bill yesterday (HB368) that will likely undermine the teaching of science, and evolution in particular, to Tennessee students. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has a statement condemning the bill’s passage, which they label the “monkey bill.”

What is strange to me is that the executive summary of the bill describes something almost entirely opposite of what the bill seeks to do (full text here in PDF form).

(1) 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; and
(2) Assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.

A bill that did this would be wonderful, as it would allow science teachers to teach evolution without issue, as the controversy around evolution are in now way “scientific” but entirely personal and/or political. The intent of the lawmakers responsible for this bill seems to be to confuse students by confusing scientific controversy and political controversy.

Also, why do “evolution” and “global warming,” two readily demonstrable scientific observations, end up getting lumped in the bill with human cloning?

I actually spent part of my morning today doing a live Skype discussion with my brother’s high school biology class in Alaska talking about issues related to human evolution and the fossil record. I guess I’m lucky he doesn’t live in Tennessee.

About Adam Van Arsdale

I am biological anthropologist with a specialization in paleoanthropology. My research focuses on the pattern of evolutionary change in humans over the past two million years, with an emphasis on the early evolution and dispersal of our genus, Homo. My work spans a number of areas including comparative anatomy, genetics and demography.
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One Response to Blow against education

  1. Tennessee is dead-set on herding its citizens back to the dark ages. In the past two years, the Governor and Republican Party have squashed Gay Rights statutes in the city of Nashville, developed laws targeting peaceful protesters and made it illegal to post “potentially offensive images” to the internet. The “Monkey Law” now brings religion back into the classroom by opening debate for creationism. In addition, a new law puts the Ten Commandments back in public buildings around the state. There is a clear cut suppression of progressive thinking by the Republican Party and I addressed these issues “illegally” on my artist’s blog at with a portrait of the Governor to address his party’s absurd agendas.

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