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.