Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Iowa Higher Ed Standing up for Science

I originally thought this was a campaign stunt during an election cycle, but it must be the "cool thing to do" for legislatures; introduce a bill that disguises Creationism teaching with "the right for educators to teach the full range of thought on evolution." As if this is a teacher's civil rights issue. Texas and Louisiana are going through the same legislative efforts, the latter of which was put in law last summer and recently overturned by the state supreme court.

Iowa has legislation as well. But kudos to college and university faculty that have taken a stand against the action. From the National Center for Science Education:

Over two hundred faculty members at Iowa's colleges and universities have endorsed a statement calling on Iowa's legislature to reject House File 183, the so-called Evolution Academic Freedom Act. Responding to the bill's contention that "current law does not expressly protect the right of instructors to objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution," the statement explains, "It is misleading to claim that there is any controversy or dissent within the vast majority of the scientific community regarding the scientific validity of evolutionary theory. Since there is no real dissent within the scientific community ... 'academic freedom' for alternative theories is simply a mechanism to introduce religious or non-scientific doctrines into our science curriculum."

HF 183 contends that "instructors have experienced or feared discipline, discrimination, or other adverse consequences as a result of presenting the full range of scientific views regarding chemical and biological evolution," and its sponsor, Rod A. Roberts (R-District 51), told the Iowa City Press-Citizen (February 27, 2009) that his bill is "about the freedom that an instructor and students can engage in without fear of criticism, censure or fear of losing one's job." But such claims of persecution have not been substantiated, the authors of the statement — Hector Avalos of Iowa State University and James W. Demastes and Tara C. Smith of the University of Iowa — explained to the Ames Tribune (February 25, 2009).

Nice. Special emphasis on the claim by Roberts that this is about teachers fearing criticism, censure, or losing their job, and then having no proof that's the case. This is all about someone's individual agenda.

The real story is Roberts' bill is exactly what we cannot have right now in Iowa. We need the support of legislators, community members, and business people to help our schools improve. We can't make claims that "X" is what's wrong with Iowa's schools, and then not have any actual examples of "X", or even bother setting foot in the schools in the first place. It amounts to red herrings, which unfortunately will diminish educators willingness to listen to earnest members of the legislature and community on how to change. And, we'll continue to not listen to each other and not change for the next 20 years.

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