Last week, Bob Collins of Alabama Citizens for Science Education discovered that the third creationist bill of the 2005 Alabama Legislature had been introduced late in the legislative session (see older NCSE news on Alabama for a history of this bill). A hearing on the bill before the House Education Committee was scheduled for last Wednesday, and although the hearing was apparently not announced on the website of the Alabama Legislature, Bob Collins and others organized rapidly to speak out against the bill.
A committee vote is scheduled for next Wednesday. Bob Collins has asked that the following message be as widely distributed as possible, so I am posting it to PT for any Alabamans that might be reading.
URGENT!! There is still time to call or fax the Alabama House Education Committee to Oppose the Creationist bill!!
The Christian Coalition has sent out an alert to its Alabama members to “Call the members of the House Education Committtee and ask them to give a favorable report to the Academic Freedom Act”. We need to call/fax ASAP and tell our representatives NO!!
The Education Committee of the Alabama State House of Representatives had their public hearing last Wednesday on HB716, the misnamed “Academic Freedom Act”. We are convinced that a number of Committee members have serious misgivings about this bill, and will oppose it if encouraged to do so.
The Committee will vote on HB716 this Wednesday, April 27.
Please call or fax one (or more) of the following Education Committee members:
If you live in the Huntsville area: Sue Schmitz Voice: (334) 242-7704 Fax: (334) 353-9527
If you live in the Birmingham area: Priscilla Dunn Voice: (334) 242-7702 Fax: (334) 353-9527
If you live in East Central Alabama: Barbara Boyd Voice: (334) 242-7692 Fax: (334) 353-9527
All others: Yvonne Kennedy, Chairman Voice - (334) 242-7737 Fax - (334) 353-9527
We can make a difference!! Please call/fax TODAY!!
Bob Collins robert_d_collinsATmindspring.com
Three informational items are included with this email: 1. Analysis of HB716 2. Bob Collins’ speech at the public hearing 3. Text of HB716
1. ANALYSIS OF HB716
- It legally protects people who want to promote racism in the classroom. For example, so-called scientific studies “prove” that some races are genetically programmed to have low IQ’s. These are documented in popular books like “The Bell Curve” and “The g Factor”. A racist teacher would have “affirmative right and freedom to present” their views under this bill, so long as they could make them sound scientific.
- It deprives principals, public universities, and even the Alabama Board of Education of the power to control the quality of what is taught in the classroom. We have standards (e.g., the “Alabama Course of Study: Science” for K-12), but this law would enable a teacher to ignore the standards.
- It opens the door for teaching Wicca, Satanism, Scientology, Astrology, Hinduism, etc., in the classroom, so long as it is perceived by the teacher as having any connection, however tenuous, with science. Mormon “archaeology”, supporting their belief that Jesus visited Native American tribes, could be presented.
- It does not restrict teaching this “science” to the science classroom, so a coach, English, Home Economics or even Math teacher could teach it in their classroom.
- The idea that certain illegal drugs, such as LSD and cocaine, beneficially “expand people’s consciousness” could be presented in the classroom, so long as the teacher presented any “science”, to support calling it a “scientific view”.
- There is no way that every teacher’s “particular position on scientific views” can be represented in the statewide High School Graduation exams.
- The college entrance exams, such as ACT and SAT, do not contain questions on every “particular position on scientific views” unless it is backed by enough science to make it into approved textbooks.
- The only scientific views that are mentioned by name in this bill are “biological or chemical origins”, so it is clear that the intent of this bill is to teach creationism in public schools.
- This bill would effectively remove every public university in Alabama’s ability to control the quality of what is taught in their classrooms. This loss of control would also cause problems with accrediting agencies.
2. TEXT OF BOB COLLINS SPEECH AT THE PUBLIC HEARING
My name is Bob Collins. I attended public school in Alabama from first grade all the way through college. My son attended public middle and high school here before going to college, and my daughter is currently a freshman at Spain Park High School in Hoover. I and my family attend Second Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
I am opposed to this bill, called the “Academic Freedom Act”. First of all, the intent of this bill - to allow teaching of creationism in public school science classrooms - is not only unconstitutional, but does not help prepare our children to compete in an increasingly scientific global job market.
There are many in this room who will disagree with what I just said. But here are some things about this bill that we can all agree on.
This bill, as written, will allow an enormous range of non-scientific views to be presented in the classroom. I would like to illustrate with just two.
One of the fastest growing beliefs in this country is Scientology. Their main book, “Dianetics” has sold over 13 million copies. Scientology has some very definite beliefs about human origins, which are not only at odds with generally accepted science, but directly contradict the Bible. They tell us that they have scientific evidence to back up their beliefs. This bill would allow a scientologist teacher to teach these views in the classroom.
This bill does not limit this to views of human origins. It allows, “the full range of scientific views”. One of the most insidious books to be published lately is “The Bell Curve”, which was very popular and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Here we see a very scientific-sounding book, complete with graphs and scientific language, that presents the view that African Americans are genetically programmed to be not as smart as white Americans. These differences are substantial - 15 IQ points, that is one and one half standard deviations below whites
I think that everyone in this room is offended by this idea, and can agree that it has no place in the classroom. This “science” has been thoroughly discredited, but there is no doubt that there are large numbers of people in Alabama who would love to have it presented in the classroom.
We just do not have any business approving any legislation that allow scientology or racism to be taught in the science classroom.
3. TEXT OF HB716
HB716 By Representative Beason RFD Education Rd 1 05-APR-05
SYNOPSIS: Existing law does not expressly provide a right to, nor does it expressly protect, tenure and employment for a public school teacher or a teacher at an institution of higher education for presenting scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views. In addition, students are not expressly provided a right to a position on scientific views.
This bill would expressly provide rights and protection for teachers and students concerning their position on scientific views.
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT
Providing teacher rights and protection for a public school teacher or teacher at an institution of higher education to present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views in applicable curricula or in a course of learning; providing employment and tenure protection and protection against discrimination for any public school teacher or teacher at a public institution of higher education related to the presentation of such information; and providing student protection for subscribing to a particular position on scientific views.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:
Section 1. This law shall be know as the “Academic Freedom Act.”
Section 2. The Legislature finds that existing law does not expressly protect the right of teachers identified by the United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard to present scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories. The Legislature further finds that existing law does not expressly protect the right of students to hold positions regarding scientific views. It is the intent of the Legislature that this act expressly protects those rights.
Section 3. Every K-12 public school teacher or teacher or instructor in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education, or in any graduate or adult program thereof, in the State of Alabama, shall have the affirmative right and freedom to present scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views in any curricula or course of learning.
Section 4. No K-12 public school teacher or teacher or instructor in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education, or in any graduate or adult program thereof, in the State of Alabama, shall be terminated, disciplined, denied tenure, or otherwise discriminated against for presenting scientific information pertaining to the full range of scientific views in any curricula or course of learning, provided, with respect to K-12 teachers, the Alabama course of study for science has been taught as appropriate to the grade and subject assignment.
Section 5. Students may be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials, but no student, in any public school or institution of higher education, shall be penalized in any way because he or she may subscribe to a particular position on scientific views.
Section 6. The rights and privileges contained in this act apply when topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological or chemical origins. Nothing in this act shall be construed as requiring or encouraging any change in the state curriculum standards in K-12 public schools, nor shall any provision of this act be construed as prescribing the curricular content of any course in any two-year or four-year public institution of higher education in the state.
Section 7. Nothing in this act shall be construed as promoting any religious doctrine, promoting discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promoting discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.
Section 8. This act shall become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.
Bob Collins of Alabama Citizens for Science Education