An academic freedom law has just been passed in Tennessee that allows for dissenting views to be presented for controversial issues in science:
Nashville – Today Tennessee became the latest state to enact an academic freedom bill that protects teachers when they promote critical thinking and objective discussion about controversial science issues such as biological evolution, climate change and human cloning. At least ten states now have statewide science standards or laws that protect or encourage teachers to discuss the scientific evidence for and against Darwinian evolution.
Teachers in Tennessee are still required to teach according to state and local science standards. But under the law, teachers are allowed to objectively present additional scientific evidence, analysis, and critiques regarding topics already in the approved curriculum.
Critics claimed that this bill would promote religion instead of science, but this is simply not true.
“First, the bill expressly states that it ‘shall not be construed to promote any religious or non-religious doctrine,'” explained Luskin. “Second, in places like Texas and Louisiana that have similar legislation or science standards there has been no negative economic impact at all. Contrary to critics, no lawsuits have materialized in other states or districts with such policies in place.”
The point of the law is to allow debate, the kind that goes on in the scientific world but rarely surfaces to the public eye. I won’t get into the thick of the debate (because I truly don’t have time to be completely educated beyond a superficial level about the debate), but there is a debate among evolutionary scientists about the plausibility of Neo-Darwinism. Here Jerry Coyne criticizes James Shapiro, both professors of biology at the University of Chicago, both atheists, both at odds about the reliability of Neo-Darwinism. I also read a few weeks ago this article from Nature on Postmodern Evolution. Modern evolutionists apparently loathe these ideas (Evo-Devo), but some scientists are meeting and discussing how to address problems with the modern evolutionary synthesis has never been able to answer.
The point: there is debate in the scientific community concerning the strengths and weakness of theories . That debate should extend down through our educational system if we hope to have any real critical thinking development in students.
I won’t get into the lack of critical thinking developed in our educational system, in general, but a great book to read is Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto, voted NYC teacher of the year twice and NY state teacher of the year once. Upon receiving his last award, he resigned and gave a speech informing those present that he had to break all the school rules in order to achieve that distinction of “teacher of the year.”
Ok, it seems I am getting into it: for instance, he wanted to teach Moby Dick, so he ordered the official school curriculum. He received and saw that it had so much commentary that it was rendered useless. Why? It did not allow the student to read the original text, think about it, discuss it, regurgitate it, argue about, write their own words about it. That is critical thinking. Instead, the curriculum told them what to think about Moby Dick, just as students are told what to think about evolution.
So, read that book (a must-read), and thank God that teachers (now in 10 states) can have the freedom to discuss both the strengths and weakness of a topic with our future citizens.