Oklahoma legislators are considering a bill that would undermine sound science education in public schools.
Senate Bill 393, which has passed the state Senate and will soon face a vote on the floor of the state House of Representatives, would encourage public school teachers to teach “scientific controversies.” That may seem innocuous enough. But here’s the catch: there is no scientific controversy surrounding the issues this bill is targeting. “Teach the controversy” is actually code for undermining the scientifically-sound theory of evolution with religious concepts like intelligent design and creationism.
In an April 14 letter to Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall (R), AU Legislative Director Maggie Garrett voiced AU’s opposition to the bill, explaining that SB 393’s clear purpose is to discredit sound scientific theories in “another attempt by the legislature to introduce religion into public-school classrooms.” That, of course, violates the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits public schools from teaching religion in the science classroom.
Sound science in public schools shouldn't be undermined.
In addition to violating the U.S. Constitution, teaching creationism in a public school science class is educationally unsound. As Elizabeth Allan, a University of Central Oklahoma biology professor, explained: “the bill opens the door to allow for inaccurate science to be taught along accurate science. That could “hurt students needing to hurt students needing to pass college entrance or AP exams or even applying for jobs in STEM field.”
This bill also falsely and unnecessarily pits religion against science. Evan Taylor, a reverend from Oklahoma knows that science and religion can coexist: "It can coexist. My personal belief in science and my personal belief in the Bible, they mesh together. So, it's all in how you interpret it. It's all in how you take it.” He stressed that the teaching of creationism is for Sunday school, not public school science class.
Oklahoma is not alone. In states across the country we have seen legislation that allows religion to be used to undermine science. That’s why Americans United is an official partner in the March for Science this Saturday, April 22. We will continue advocating for sound science in public schools, and you can, too.
If you’re an Oklahoman, you can urge your legislators to oppose SB 393 here. If you’re attending the March for Science in Washington, D.C., or in your state, you can download and print an AU march sign here.