Is there anyone out there who believes there ought to be a law on the books to protect teachers who allow students to question whether 2 + 2 = 4?
How about the question of whether the planet Earth is older than 6,000 years? Should there be a statute protecting teachers who allow students to criticize that scientific fact in Earth science classes anywhere?
Or what about the burning question concerning whether English bull dogs appeared on planet Earth for the very first time in a puff of smoke 250 years ago on the streets of Manchester UK?
Should state legislators be dreaming up new laws to protect teachers who allow their students to entertain such utter and complete nonsense?
Yes! Yes, of course, say the lawmakers and governor of the great state of Tennessee. They are the proud authors of a new law protecting school teachers who allow students to criticize evolution and other scientific theories in the classrooms of public schools.
Yes indeed, because "good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion," explains Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who let the measure become law without his signature.
"My concern is that this bill has not met this objective," he admitted. But he declined to veto the bill because he doesn't think it changes scientific standards currently taught in Tennessee schools, nor does it accomplish anything that isn't already acceptable in schools.
In other words this law, far from bringing clarity to the classroom, was a complete waste of time and effort by all concerned. It’s a nullity designed solely to appeal to the Bible thumper constituency in Tennessee – the people who firmly believe in creationism while rejecting the science of evolution.
That’s why this absurd legislation received strong bipartisan support, passing the Tennessee House and Senate by a three-to-one margin. It supposedly encourages “critical thinking” by protecting teachers from discipline if they help students critique "scientific weaknesses."
Evolution is a “scientific weakness” in the state of Tennessee.
The legislation is the first Haslam has let become law without his signature.
You see, there is a very large segment of the population in the state of Tennessee who ardently believe that there is an invisible man living in the sky who created the cosmos, including planet Earth, and all the plants and animals on it in the space of six days about 6,000 years ago. It’s the story of creation in the Book of Genesis in the Holy Bible, and they want it taught in public school science classes.
They don’t want the science of evolution taught to their kids in biology class because that conflicts with their fantasy, but if they can’t have their way about that, at least they want evolution to be taught as a controversy and not an established science.
Now their lawmakers have said yes.
But real scientists in Tennessee and everywhere else, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, say evolution is established science that shouldn't be taught as a controversy.
It’s like 2 + 2 = 4 and no one can make a legitimate argument in a classroom about that. Planet Earth is older than 6,000 years and there is no legitimate controversy about it. English bull dogs are the decedents of a long line of canines stretching back millions of years. There is simply no legitimate controversy.
This law was designed to undermine science education in Tennessee public schools, while at the same time staying within bounds of the United States Constitution First Amendment Establishment Clause. It’s a simple as that. It allows students and teachers to finesse non-scientific fantasies, i.e. creationism and intelligent design into the science curriculum of public schools.
"The new law is effectively a permission slip for teachers to violate the First Amendment by allowing them to dress up their religious beliefs on the origin of life as pseudo-science," explains Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.
House sponsor, Knoxville Republican, Bill Dunn said he's just pleased the bill will soon become law. "I think the governor looks at it and realizes that it goes right along with what we're trying to do in our classrooms, which is just to produce students who can think critically."
His idea of students thinking critically is accepting the Book of Genesis fantasy while dismissing the science of evolution with teacher’s approval.
Indeed, critics are deriding the legislation as the "monkey bill" for once again attacking evolution. The famous Scopes "monkey trial" was conducted in 1925 in Dayton Tennessee. Public school teacher, John Scopes, was convicted of violating a state statute by teaching evolution in biology class. He was fined $100.
Tennessee's anti-evolution law was eventually revoked in 1967.
Apparently that has not set too well with the state’s evangelicals who just now got their new monkey law.