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Missouri Wants to Warn Parents When Schools Teach Scientific Facts

Missouri Wants to Warn Parents When Schools Teach Scientific Facts

A bill introduced by Missouri legislators would make it mandatory that schools send out a warning to parents when the schools teach evolution, allowing parents to opt out.

The bill, known as House Bill No. 1472, is sponsored by Republican Representative Rick Brattin (55th District). The legislation is motivated by Brattin’s belief that schools are offering a biased version of the facts by “only” teaching the theory of evolution by natural selection.

In an effort to address this supposed problem, the bill proposes that:

Any school district or charter school which provides instruction relating to the theory of evolution by natural selection shall be required to have a policy on parental notification and a mechanism where a parent can choose to remove the student from any part of the district’s or school’s instruction on evolution. The policy shall require the school district or charter school to notify the parent or legal guardian of each student enrolled in the district of:

(1) The basic content of the district’s or school’s evolution instruction to be provided to the student; and

(2) The parent’s right to remove the student from any part of the district’s or school’s evolution instruction.

This is the first bill of its kind introduced with the specific aim of undermining the facts of evolution by allowing parents to opt their kids out of those lessons.

Brattin has said that the current, approved curriculum is “indoctrination because it is not objective approach.” He has defended the measure, telling KCTV5 that this legislation would not prohibit kids from learning about topics like DNA or cell structures. Then, of course, there’s the matter of Brattin’s religious beliefs: “It’s an absolute infringement on people’s beliefs,” Brattin is quoted as saying by the Kansas City Star. Brattin then goes on to seriously miscast all the scientific inquiry, methodical deduction and evidence that has supported evolution by natural selection, saying, “What’s being taught is just as much faith and, you know, just as much pulled out of the air as, say, any religion.”

Critics argue the legislation dramatically undercuts the teaching of basic scientific facts and reinforces the false notion that there is a valid debate about Darwinian evolution. David Evans, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, is quoted as saying that the idea that this won’t undercut biology classes is incorrect because ”evolution by natural selection is the unifying principle in the study of biology,” and that this legislation would impact America’s competiveness in science education.

Sadly this isn’t the only bill aiming to shore up creationist teaching. In addition to existing anti-evolution laws that are already on the books, there are currently a number of pending pieces of legislation in states including South Carolina and Oklahoma. The war on science education is perhaps not that surprising though, given that only a minority (43%) of self-identifying Republicans now accept evolution by natural selection. To put this in perspective, that’s a dramatic fall from 2009 when 54% (still shamefully small but at least more than half) agreed evolution is a fact.

The proportion of Young-Earth Creationists, those who believe that Earth is less than 10,000 years old per a narrow interpretation of the Bible, has risen steadily in recent years, but even so the power the group is capable of exerting over the American political scene is alarming. This in part seems to result from successful attempts to shoehorn anti-evolution rhetoric into the ever-widening bracket of “religious rights,” something that Republican lawmakers have made their go-to for everything from challenging gay rights to a woman’s right to choose.

In this case, however, the sought after religious “right” in question appears to be nothing more than keeping children in the dark about scientific facts. This kind of parental opt-out based on religious conviction sets a dangerous precedent. What’s next, opting out of lessons about the Earth being round? About the mathematics that undermine notions of creation? Of history that dates older than 10,000 years? This bill is profoundly flawed, and it’s something that should have all moderate conservatives just as appalled as their liberal counterparts.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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213 comments

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11:32PM PDT on Mar 17, 2014

Thanks

9:36PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

It is getting a little crazy with all the legislation to giving parents options to pull kids out of courses. Why not just let kids pick and choose classes they want to take - avoiding anything they don't agree with or not in the mood for. But I have to disagree with Bill F. i don't think the stranglehold of religion is fading; it is just getting ramped up.

8:02PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

EXACTLY Patti.

11:39AM PST on Mar 4, 2014

I vote I should be allowed to have my kid opt out of geometry.

As a woman of faith, I believe God used evolution, and we don't understand much about either...however I always wanted my kids to be free thinkers and always encouraged them to learn multiple perspectives. Creationism needs to be taught in churches however, not public schools.

3:29PM PST on Mar 3, 2014

Russell and Holly

Like these other foundational scientific theories, the theory of evolution is supported by so many observations and confirming experiments that scientists are confident that the basic components of the theory will not be overturned by new evidence. However, like all scientific theories, the theory of evolution is subject to continuing refinement as new areas of science emerge or as new technologies enable observations and experiments that were not possible previously. The fairy tale story of creation is not supported by evidence of any kind.

But I suspect you’ll be able to find a contradiction to this in your bible in Jerk 13:2012 that portrays the rabbi of the NT stating unequivocally that evolution is a philosophical assumption.

The amoeba responsible for believing creationism, thought real hard for millions of years and only recently grew limbs, but it seems to have quit at the point just before creating an intelligent brain somewhere above the medulla oblongata in the brain stem.

7:22AM PST on Mar 3, 2014

"Schools should be teaching both, so that the children can make their own choices."

Well, then, churches should teach both so that, well you know, children can make their own choices.

12:37PM PST on Mar 2, 2014

This sends the message of how frightened believers are about knowledge. If something isn’t true you fight it with logic. They want to deprive children of the greatest tool they will ever have: the ability to reason.

12:08PM PST on Mar 2, 2014

For those who are saying schools should teach "both." I have a question, what is "both"? You mean that schools should teach science and "magic"?

11:05AM PST on Mar 2, 2014

School should be teaching sience not religion. thats wht churches are for

4:41AM PST on Mar 2, 2014

Schools should be teaching both, so that the children can make their own choices.

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