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We Urge Oklahoma Residents to Weigh In and Support Senate Bill 393

Sarah Chaffee

academic freedom bill

Oklahoma’s SB 393, an academic freedom bill, passed out of the Senate Education committee last month on a 13-1 vote. Since then, national organizations have been circulating the usual misconceptions about the bill. With a vote coming up in the Senate any day, please make your voice heard!

We urge Oklahoma residents who support teaching the scientific controversy over evolution to weigh in. Please call President Pro Tempore of the Senate Mike Schulz at 405-521-5612, and Senate Floor Majority Leader Greg Treat at 405-521-5632. We also ask Oklahoma residents to contact their state senator (whom you can find here).

Contrary to misleading reports, academic freedom bills such as SB 393 do not authorize teaching creationism (which is unconstitutional to teach in public schools). Nor do they sanction teaching intelligent design, as they apply only to theories already in the curriculum (and ID isn’t in a public school curriculum anywhere in the U.S.). And yes, scientific controversy exists over evolution — indeed at the very highest levels of science.

Here’s what the legislation actually says:

A. The State Board of Education, school district boards of education, school district superintendents and school principals shall endeavor to create an environment within public school districts 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 controversial issues.

C. Neither the State Board of Education, nor any school district board of education, school district superintendent or school principal shall prohibit any teacher in a public school district in this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.

In teaching about controversial issues, many educators face pressure to withhold from students a rounded, objective, and accurate picture of the range of views held by mainstream scientists. This legislation would protect teachers who want to engage their classes in scientific inquiry and critical thinking on theories in the curriculum. Examining the evidence for and against propositions is good pedagogy, and good science!

Voice your support for inquiry-based science education, and recommend that SB 393 be adopted!

Photo: Oklahoma State Capitol, dome, by Serge Melki [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.