Creationism and climate change-denial could potentially be making their way into the classroom with Senate Bill 562.
Senate Bill 562, sponsored by Indiana State Senators Jeff Raatz and Dennis Kruse, states that:
"Requires the state board of education, the department of education, governing bodies of school corporations, superintendents, principals, and other public school administrators to: (1) 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; and (2) allow a teacher to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of conclusions and theories being presented in a course being taught by the teacher."
Dennis Kruse once attempted to push a similar bill, which he called the “truth in education” bill. It would allow for students to question teachers if they believed something was not true. The teacher would then have to present research to prove that what they are teaching is in fact true.
That bill did not go through, as courts have been consistent in their rulings that teaching creationism goes against the First Amendment’s establishment clause.
"Here they go again," groaned Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, an Oakland-based group.
Senate Bill 562 is not demanding that alternatives to evolution or climate change are taught, but it will essentially protect a teacher if he/she explored ideas debates that may not be approved by the science community.
Senate Bill 562 doesn't specifically mention evolution, explains Dave Bangert of JC Online. Instead it covers "some scientific subjects, such as, but not limited to, human cloning, (that) may produce differing conclusions and theories." But Raatz said he would open the door to any controversial science topic — whether it includes intelligent design or anything else.
"Could it be seen as an anti-evolution bill? Could be," Raatz said. "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."
Branch worries that teachers who would not ordinarily consider teaching those ideas may feel pressured to do so by the community if this bill is enacted. Branch calls this bill a “get out of jail free card” for bad scientists. Indiana science teachers will be ready to rally when this bill comes up for a hearing, claims Branch.
To track the bill, click here.
“Sen. Kruse said he’d be back, and he wasn’t lying,” Branch said.