A Republican Indiana state senator is taking advantage of his governor’s decision to withdraw from the Common Core to file a bill that would allow individual teachers to discuss “competing theories” in the classroom without worrying about blowback from the state or school district, the Journal & Courier reports.
State Senator Jeff Raatz (R) said that Senate Bill 562 represents a call to action for “critical thinking” in the classroom.
The bill would “endeavor to create an environment within public schools that encourages students to explore questions, learn about evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to different conclusions and theories concerning subjects that have produced differing conclusions and theories on some topics.”
The “questions” that the bill claims will be “explored” include “some scientific subjects, such as, but not limited to, human cloning [that] may produce differing conclusions and theories by noted experts on some topics within those subjects.”
Moreover, the bill prohibits “the state board, the department, governing bodies, superintendents, principals, and other administrators” from preventing a teacher who wishes to help “students to understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing conclusions and theories being presented in a course being taught by the teacher.”
In practical terms, as Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education told the Journal & Courier, this bill is “designed to free the hands of those few teachers who have funny ideas — funny ideas about evolution, such as creationism; funny ideas about climate change and climate change denial.”
“So if you look at the bill, it basically says is that when it comes to socially controversial issues like these, teachers can teach them as though they’re scientifically controversial. They can misrepresent the state of the scientific consensus on the issues.”
“To the small, bad handful of science teachers,” he added, “it’s a get out of jail free card.”
Sen. Raatz disagreed, rhetorically asking, “Could it be seen as an anti-evolution bill?”
“Could be,” he answered. “That doesn’t bother me at all. Essentially, we’re saying there are competing theories and we should allow the discussion in the classroom. Not to promote anything or one over another. But that we should have the ability to discuss.”
“We don’t want a cookie-cutter education system,” state Senator Dennis Kruse — the bill’s cosponsor — said. “Indiana should be in charge of its own education system so we maintain Indiana sovereignty.”
Unlike a 2012 version of this bill also co-sponsored by Sen. Kruse — which would have required “the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science” — this bill never mentions evolution by name.
The bill’s existence is made possible by the fact that last August, Indiana became the first state to officially withdraw from the Common Core.
“Indiana has taken an important step forward in developing academic standards that are written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high,” Governor Mike Pence (R) said at the time.