In a remarkable display of twisted thinking, the legislators stated that the bills aims to protect teachers from being "punished" for covering the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories" (I find it hard to believe that teachers in bible belt states have to fear punishment for criticising the theory of evolution). Despite the authors' affirmation that the bills "shall not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine", they are quite obviously thinly veiled creationist agenda.
The goals of the bills sound noble: To "help students develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens." While "teaching the controversy" could indeed be used to improve science education, there are three (or more) arguments against implementing such a curriculum:
|The Periodic Table of the Elements is also just a theory!|
2) Time in science classroom is both limited and valuable. U.S. high school science teachers spend only an average of 13.7 hours on evolution (Berkman, et. al. (2008)). Building a deep understanding of complex scientific theories is hard cognitive work and takes time (even without spending time on non-scientific alternatives). Spending valuable time on alternative theories will take away valuable time that could be spend on helping students grasp accepted scientific theories. U.S. students are already lacking in scientific understanding (see PISA test results) and around 50% of U.S. citizens reject the theory of evolution (see survey results here).
|Teach the Controversy|
- Geocentrism (rejected since the introduction of the theory of heliocentrism)
- Phrenology (abandoned due to lack of evidence)
- Aether theory (abandoned since introduction of theory of relativity and quantum theory)
- Impetus theory (abandoned since the introduction of the theory of gravity)
- Illness caused by bad odours (abandoned since the introduction of the theory of bacteria and viruses)
- Flat earth theory (abandoned since the introduction of the spherical earth theory)
- Four humors of the human body theory (abandoned since the advancement of physiology and modern medicine)
- Unchanging nature of organisms over generations (abandoned since the introduction of the theory of evolution)
- Four elements theory (abandoned since introduction of theory of chemical elements)
An integrated understanding of major scientific theories and the nature of science is important in a science-based democratic society to 1) make informed evidence-based decisions, 2) understand the complexity and inter-connectedness of the underlaying mechanisms behind natural phenomena (see Richard Dawkins' book "The magic of reality"), and 3) appreciate scientific theories as major human accomplishments (See more detailed discussion in essay "Why science education").
- "Teach the controversy" science education bills advance in Tennessee, Oklahoma
- Berkman, M. B., Pacheco, J. S., & Plutzer, E. (2008). Evolution and creationism in america's classrooms: A national portrait. PLoS Biology, 6(5), 920-924