Americans United’s allies at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) recently reported some good news: Two bills in Oklahoma that were intended to weaken instruction about evolution have died.
The bills, SB 613 and SB 662, did not target the teaching of evolution by name but instead relied on an increasingly common tactic among creationists of claiming to promote “academic freedom.” As NCSE noted, the bills would have “ostensibly provided Oklahoma’s teachers with the right 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,’ while prohibiting state and local administrators from exercising supervisory responsibility.”
Previous measures employing this language in Oklahoma and other states were clearly aimed at the teaching of evolution. The phrase “scientific strengths and weaknesses” comes straight out of the playbook of Discovery Institute, a group that promotes neo-creationist “intelligent design” in public schools.
We’re glad these measures are dead. Oklahoma public schools should teach sound science education, not Christian fundamentalist theology, and these bills would have made that more difficult.
Now consider this: There are young people all over America right now learning not just that evolution is weak, but that it’s false. These children are being taught that the Earth, which we know to be five billion years old, is only 6,000 years old. They are being taught that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time.
The kids who are learning these things attend fundamentalist Christian academies or may be home-schooled. And in some states, the schools or parents who teach these things are receiving taxpayer support through private school voucher plans.
As we noted yesterday, Americans United has launched a new campaign to educate people about the threat vouchers pose to our public schools. We noted that private schools are free to discriminate, that they may expel or deny admission to students who are LGBTQ or the “wrong” religion. (These institutions may also apply discriminatory standards to teachers and staff.)
That is bad enough. But it’s equally troubling that some of these schools are teaching things – like creationism – that do young people a great disservice. Some of these students may end up at a secular college, where they’ll be taught evolution upfront and without apology in biology classes. Having never encountered useful instruction about evolution before, they’re going to be at a disadvantage. Entire fields of study may be closed off to them. (These schools teach lots of other controversial things – bogus “Christian nation” and pro-Confederate perspectives of history, anti-LGBTQ views, lessons that are anti-women’s rights, etc.)
Private religious schools have the right to teach bad science – even though it’s not in their students’ interests. But American taxpayers absolutely should not be expected to subsidize it.
Visit our new campaign website today and sign the petition to confirm you believe public money should fund public schools.