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Now It’s a “War on Children” — Critics of Academic Freedom Opt for Scare Tactics


An article in Digital Journal advances the familiar misconceptions about academic freedom legislation. But its title stands out even from what we’re accustomed to from the media: “Republican ‘war on science’ targets children in four more states.”

Anyone with any common sense would object to the gruesome and indecent image — a war that targets children? Fine, let them disagree about the advisability of these laws. But this wording is a prime example of scare tactics, also known as the fallacy of appeal to fear.

As a matter of fact, these bills aid children. How else would you characterize legislation that encourages critical thinking skills that young people will find to be vital in adult life?

Additionally, both the Digital Journal article and an Ars Technica article that it references say academic freedom legislation opens the door to non-scientific information. That is wrong. Digital Journal says teachers could “teach ‘alternative fact’-based pseudoscience if they believe it to be scientific.” And Ars Technica says that “Should the bills pass, teachers would be immune to punishment for using outside material in instruction, as long as the teacher believes the material is scientific — even if it has overtly religious origins.”

As we have pointed out many times in the past, these bills do not permit religion in the classroom. Additionally, there is real scientific controversy over evolutionary theory’s Modern Synthesis. (See Casey Luskin’s article, for a start, “The Top Ten Scientific Problems with Biological and Chemical Evolution.”)

Digital Journal brings in unrelated issues, such as what Americans’ personal beliefs are on human origins. And it misleads readers by featuring at the top a photo of a display at a creationist museum in which a dinosaur is pictured cavorting while a human youngster gathers plants nearby. Plainly, academic freedom laws like those in Louisiana and Tennessee do not give shelter to teaching creationism.

This kind of “reporting” does not help or educate anyone.

Sarah Chaffee

Now a teacher, Sarah Chaffee served as Program Officer in Education and Public Policy at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. She earned her B.A. in Government. During college she interned at Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler’s office and for Prison Fellowship Ministries. Before coming to Discovery, she worked for a private land trust with holdings in the Southwest.



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