Academic freedom bill places science up for debate

A new bill that’s being proposed in Pennsylvania would allow for students to debate scientific theories in the classroom.

It’s called the ‘academic freedom’ bill, and it was drafted by State Representative Stephen Bloom.

It has yet to be introduced to the house but Rep. Bloom says there are already mischaracterizations.

But the worry with this legislation is mainly focused on religion.

So far Pennsylvania is the 9th state to bring this type of legislation to the table this year.

A Shippensburg University Professor tells us that eight other states decided to table a similar bill or have not brought it up for a vote because of the controversy.

It’s being compared to the Dover Area School District Court battle of 2005 when the school board wanted to implement intelligent design or creationism into classroom learning.

But Representative Bloom says this bill is nowhere near comparable.

“It specifically says it’s only about teaching scientific theories in the classroom. It doesn’t change what would be taught nor does it bring in religion in fact it specifically says you’re not to bring in religion in the classroom,” says Representative Bloom (R) of the 199th Legislative District.

Bloom decided to draft this bill after his son was denied the opportunity to debate a theory in his 9th grade science class.

He believes this type of discussion over evolution, cloning, and climate change is how science advances.

“I’d hate to see our classrooms become so sterile that students are just spoon fed knowledge without having the opportunity to have a discussion that digs into the questions,” says Rep. Bloom.

Dr. Joe Shane is the Chemistry Department Chair at Shippensburg University.

He says the classroom is not the place for this legislation.

“If there are any positives I have yet to see them. They are unfortunate unnecessary distracting bills that take us away from bigger issues,” says Shane.

Shane says teachers already avoid teaching evolution because of the debate that students bring up.

“It’s already a bad problem in a lot of public schools and I think a bill like this could make the problem much worse,” says Shane.

Even worse, he says, is the affect on students who enter a University after being brought up without the teachings of evolution.

From his experience he says it can be devastating to a student who first learns about it in college.

Right now Representative Bloom has 7 co-sponsors for this bill.

He’s hoping when session begins that more lawmakers will sign on.

He’s already received messages from people outside of Pennsylvania who are angry, but he says he doesn’t want teachers or students to have to deal with this anger.

But he says religion will not come into play, and he’s prepared to battle this bill into law.

8 comments

  • MyTakeOnIt

    Let's have a science lesson on Zombies and one on psychic phenomenon. Bring back the Zodiac and scientifically debate horoscopes. Tax dollars well-spent.

    Try teaching the kids about the permanent chemical effects of drug use, addiction science theory, what soda, junk foods and binging do to a body, parallel parking physics or maybe how to determine when to use they're, there and their. For texting purposes, let's just use the term "thr" to cover all three.

  • Gingeet

    Maybe we should require philosophy and critical thinking classes in schools where the kids can see first hand the pathetic arguments that are offered for the existence of deities and the process of creating a valid argument.

    Let's debate religion where there is no evidence instead of science where there are volumes facts and evidence!

    Teach the controversy!

  • RickK

    Contrary to Representative Bloom's assertion that this is not about religion, he is using the "Academic Freedom" boilerplate language developed by a hyper-conservative lobbying organization called the Discovery Institute, whose stated mission is to change the teaching of science to be consistent with: "with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." See "Wedge Strategy".

  • Will

    Academic freedom is not the freedom to discuss failed pseudoscience that has no scientific credibility among university science faculty nation wide. Intelligent design has been thoroughly refuted by every credible science organization in America and even most mainstream Chritian denominations.
    It is NOT science. As such, the term academic freedom does not apply, but rather is a rhetorhical claim by the creationist lobby to encourage the ill informed, the uneducated and religious zealots to push to include junk "science" in the classroom. This damages the student by suggestng that miraculous explanations for natural phenomena is scientific. It also introduces a number of simply wrong "scientific" attacks by the creationist community on established , proveable, useful sciience.
    This Pennsylvania representative is either pandering to fundy voters in his district, or hes a religious zealot. No one, without consciously lying, can claim that creationism has any scientific merit.
    There is no "debate" about this and creationism and ID will never be science.
    You don't need laws to promote critical thinking in science. Thats what science is.
    You need laws to promote creationism, which isn't.

  • Tom

    Let's assume that belief in God is irratrional and incorrect. Ought not a good teacher to be able to refute it? Isn't it better for children with questions or wrong beliefs to be able to express them in the open, so they might be corrected? After all, the issue is not whether preachers will be allowed to come in to a school and teach his/her beliefs; the issue is whether STUDENTS ought to be allowed to express opinions contrary to conventional wisdom. Wasn't that what the Copernican revolution was all about, except now the church is on the other side, or more precisely, people of faith are on the other side. Just as faith ought to be subjected to challenges and criticisms and regular reevaluation, ought not scientific theories also be subject to the same?

  • WillGeo

    STUDENTS do not decide what science is before they have benn clearly educated in what the scientific method is. If and when they understand the scientific method, creationism instantly is understood to be fraud.
    So NO, one does not teach children that supernatural events are somehow part of the scientific method. Especially b4 they even know what science is.
    SECOND.Creationism and intelligent design creationism have been found to be religion with no scientific merit by US COURTS. We don’t use tax dollars to teach any religion in public school, TO INCLUDE fundamentalist religion and literalism, which ID is, besides being a series of misleading attacks on science.

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