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South Dakota Science Education Controversy Gets Surreal as Anti-Censorship Group Demands Censorship

David Klinghoffer

South Dakota State Capitol.jpeg

We have patiently explained why the current academic freedom bill in South Dakota, SB 55, cannot possibly be construed in any reasonable manner as seeking to inject teaching intelligent design into public schools. As noted yesterday, that didn’t stop a prominent lobbying group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, from working the phrase, “intelligent design,” six times into a statement directed against the bill.

One of those instances was in a photo caption of an instructor in front of his class, “Teachers should not be given leeway to introduce intelligent design in science classes.”

But with evolution proponents, such distortions are absolutely routine. It’s bizarre. It’s farcical. But this tops it. In a surreal move, a group called the National Coalition Against Censorship has plunged into the South Dakota situation to demand continued restraints on teachers and their academic freedom — in other words, censorship.

They complain that SB 55 would “remov[e] accountability in science education.” “Accountability” there would seem to mean instructors being vulnerable to career retaliation for teaching critical thinking skills to science students. These “anti-censorship” proponents advocate retaining the option of punishing biology teachers for going off message on Darwinism.

They go on: “Essentially, [the bill] removes the restraints on teachers that prevents them from straying from professionally-developed science standards adopted by state educators.” The National Coalition Against Censorship favors keeping “restraints” on teachers firmly in place.

The bill, they say, “may encourage teachers who object to the scientific consensus on evolution and climate change to bring their opinions into the classroom,” instead of sticking slavishly to a uniform Darwin-only script. The teachers should stick to their script.

Then there’s this. Look again at the language of the bill. It’s very brief:

No teacher may be prohibited from helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific information presented in courses being taught which are aligned with the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48.

That is another way of saying no teacher may be censored for challenging students with balanced information from objective science sources. Notice that the language concludes by saying that the “strengths and weaknesses” approach may be extended only to “scientific information presented in courses being taught which are aligned with the content standards” already established.

Because intelligent design isn’t part of those content standards, the law extends no protection for teaching about ID. Because the content standards are already defined, instruction that’s not “aligned” with them, in other words that “stray[s] from professionally-developed science standards adopted by state educators,” would also not be protected.

But interestingly, if you read the statement from the “anti-censorship” group, their quotation from the bill cuts off before getting to the part about how instruction must be “aligned with the content standards.” The whole proposed law is just a sentence long, but they truncate it a little more than half way through, perhaps to keep the reader from realizing that their dire prediction of teachers “straying” is undercut by the clear language of SB 55 itself. The anti-censorship activists are engaging in censorship right there in the middle of their own statement.

They conclude by comparing exploring mainstream debate about evolutionary theory with, yes, denying the Holocaust. And that is where they transition from absurdity to obscenity.

Good gravy. These complaints, whether from Americans United or from the horrifically misnamed National Coalition Against Censorship, are totally detached from a straightforward reading of the law they wish to attack. They are mere scaremongering, and frankly, contemptible.

In this, though, they’re not much worse than supposedly objective news outlets like the Washington Post or ProPublica. When it comes to defending evolutionary orthodoxy, journalism and propaganda merge seamlessly.

Image: South Dakota State Capitol, © dustin77a —

I’m on Twitter. Follow me @d_klinghoffer.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.



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