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Free Science

Despite the existence of legitimate scientific debates involving Darwinian theory, the right of teachers and professors to teach students about these debates is often in question. As a result, there have been repeated cases around the country where teachers, professors and students have been intimidated, ridiculed or penalized for discussing scientific criticisms of the theories of chemical and biological evolution. Because of this, some legislators have proposed to protect the academic freedom of teachers and students regarding evolution by statute.

A good example of a model academic freedom bill was enacted in Tennessee in 2012.

Tennessee Academic Freedom Law

House Bill 368 (2012) AN ACT to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 10, relative to teaching scientific subjects in elementary schools. WHEREAS, the general assembly finds that:
  1. An important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills necessary to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens;
  2. The teaching of some scientific subjects required to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the state board of education may cause debate and disputation including, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning; and
  3. Some teachers may be unsure of the expectation concerning how they should present information when debate and disputation occur on such subjects; now, therefore,
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:

SECTION 1.

Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49, Chapter 6, Part 10, is amended by adding the following as a new, appropriately designated section: (a) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific subjects required to be taught under the curriculum framework developed by the state board of education. (b) The state board of education, public elementary and secondary school governing authorities, directors of schools, school system administrators, and public elementary and secondary school principals and administrators shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum taught under the curriculum framework developed by the state board of education as it addresses scientific subjects that may cause debate and disputation. (c) Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrators, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrators shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught within the curriculum framework developed by the state board of education. (d) This section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.

SECTION 2.

By no later than the start of the 2012-2013 school term, the department of education shall notify all directors of schools of the provisions of this act. Each director shall notify all employees within the director’s school system of the provisions of this act.

SECTION 3.

This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.

You can play a part in protecting free science in your state by promoting such legislation. Contact us if you have some time and passion for a worthy cause.