Ohio: Here we go again

Ohio is in the process of considering the Common Core standards to guide public education in a range of disciplines from English language arts to math and science. Ohio’s State Board of Education adopted the Common Core in June of 2010, and local districts have been creating curriculum materials under the Common Core for implementation this year. Now two state legislators, Republican Andy Thompson of Medina and Republican Matt Huffman of Lima have filed a bill, House Bill 597, that would abandon the Common Core and eviscerate those curricula, wasting the work of hundreds of Ohio educators. House Bill 597 also contains a deadly form of anti-science propaganda. It is a lovely example of right wing ignorance of science.

I am not here interested in the general question of whether the Common Core is a good thing for public education, and comments that address that question will be off to the Bathroom Wall as soon as I see them. Rather, I’m focused on House Bill 597’s treatment of science.

According to the bill,

(iii) The standards in science shall be based in core existing disciplines of biology, chemistry, and physics; incorporate grade-level mathematics and be referenced to the mathematics standards; focus on academic and scientific knowledge rather than scientific processes; and prohibit political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another.

That last two are the problem. I draw your attention to this phrase: “…focus on academic and scientific knowledge rather than scientific processes;…”. WTF is science but those processes? Do these two dimbulbs want kids to be taught a list of facts without any mention of how those facts are come by? Do they imagine that science is a cosmic oddity shop stuffed with factoids whose basis in systematic research and evidence is not to be taught? Do they not want their future physicians to know how scientific research is done? Are they uninterested in whether children learn the methods of justifying scientific knowledge claims? Do they want Ohio’s kids to be significantly crippled when it comes to college science courses?

No, I actually don’t believe they do. Or at least, I don’t believe they consciously want to do any of that. Rather, I believe that they’re abysmally ignorant of science, they believe that it really does consist of a bunch of isolated factoids, and they want to have that ignorance propagated in Ohio public schools, actively misleading students about the process of science.

And that ain’t all. The Bill

… prohibit[s] political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another.

(I had a “sic” after that one–I don’t understand that last hanging phrase.) Bill author Thompson was quoted by the Columbus Dispatch as saying

In many districts, they may have a different perspective on that [political or religious interpretation], and we want to provide them the flexibility to consider all perspectives, not just on matters of faith or how the Earth came into existence, but also global warming and other topics that are controversial.

And then

Asked if intelligent design – the idea that a higher authority is responsible for life – should be taught alongside evolution, Thompson said, “I think it would be good for them to consider the perspectives of people of faith. That’s legitimate.”

Sure. In science classes let us teach about Cheonjiwang Bonpuli, a Korean creation myth, and Unkulunkulu, a Zulu creation myth, and Dine Bahane’, a Navaho creation myth, and Mbombo, a Kuba creation myth. Perhaps in science class we could teach this Hindu creation myth:

The Shatapatha Brahmana says that in the beginning, Prajapati, the first creator or father of all, was alone in the world. He differentiated himself into two beings, husband and wife. The wife, regarding union with her producer as incest, fled from his embraces assuming various animal disguises. The husband pursued in the form of the male of each animal, and from these unions sprang the various species of beasts (Shatapatha Brahmana, xiv. 4, 2).

Millions of people of faith believe it, and, after all, the House bill’s author does specify “all perspectives.” All those (and many more) are now or were once held by faith by one or another group of people and are perfectly legitimately contained within “all perspectives.”

Regardless of disputes about the Common Core, House Bill 597 is a real science education killer. It opens the floodgates of superstition, allowing any damn fool notion to be taught in public school science classes.