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Missouri bill to create ‘parental warning’ requirement to teach evolution debated

By George Chidi
Saturday, February 15, 2014 22:04 EDT
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Education in science will be opt-out in Missouri, if a bill requiring schools to notify parents if “the theory of evolution by natural selection” is being taught at their child’s school passes.

The bill proposed by Republican State Rep. Rick Brattin had its first public hearing Thursday. Brattin has described teaching only evolution in school as “indoctrination” to local TV.

The language of the bill makes little provision separating discussion of the specifics of evolutionary biology from any other element of biology upon which evolutionary theory rests, like anthropology, examination of dinosaur fossils, genetic sciences, disease or modern medicine.

“My fear is that every mention of a fossil, every conversation about the development of organs and vital structures, every single mention about the genetic similarity that we share with other organisms could potentially be systematically whittled out of these student’s education,” wrote Maxton Thoman, a student columnist for the University of Alabama’s Crimson White. “In the end, a lack of an education in this field will put students behind the rest of their class, and the rest of the world for that matter, in a way that they will not be able to recover from – much like leaving out multiplication would severely hinder any further advancement in mathematics.”

The bill also provides for the right of parents to inspect all “curriculum materials used in the district’s or school’s evolution instruction” before they can be used in class.

The National Center for Science Education’s deputy director Glenn Branch said in letter online describing the bill that “House Bill 1472 would eviscerate the teaching of biology in Missouri. … Evolution inextricably pervades the biological sciences; it therefore pervades, or at any rate ought to pervade, biology education at the K–12 level. There simply is no alternative to learning about it; there is no substitute activity.” Branch added, “Teachers, schools, and districts would suffer as well. … The value of a high school education in Missouri would be degraded.”

It’s a par for the course kind of controversy for the bill’s sponsor. With Missouri facing court challenges over the procurement of drugs used in executions, Brattin submitted House Bill 1470, last month, which would allow the Department of Corrections to execute condemned prisoners by firing squad. “If the judgment of death is to be carried out by firing squad, the director of the department of corrections shall select a five-person firing squad consisting of licensed peace officers,” it reads.

 
 
 
 
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