The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has stopped another attempt—of the many tired, stammering, unrelenting attempts—to block modern education, burn it to the ground, and from its ashes build wrongheaded ideas for an educational framework for the young. The NCSE was working on behalf of South Dakotans this time. NCSE does important work, I think.
It continued its activist work on February 22, 2017 for South Dakota, too. In a report on the finalisation of this particular case, they said, “South Dakota’s Senate Bill 55, which would have empowered science denial in the classroom, was defeated in the House Education Committee on February 22, 2017.” Not bad; in fact, it’s another victory.
It’s another notch on the belt—a rather long belt—concerning attempts to introduce non-scientific ideas into the American educational system. But the scientific community, represented by the NCSE, continues to win.
The motion for passing the bill was shot down 6-9 during the vote. However, there was another motion to “defer further consideration of the bill” to a time that would ‘kill it.’ It worked with a 11-4 vote.
Senate Bill 55 (SB 55) stated:
FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to protect the teaching of certain scientific information.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. That chapter 13-1 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
No teacher may be prohibited from helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific information presented in courses being taught which are aligned with the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48.
I Googled ‘Legalese-to-English Translation.’ My computer froze. But! I have some introductory legal training – not really, so this makes some sense. Senate Bill 55 speaks to ‘common sense’ (not really), or the appearance thereof (really). ‘Science teachers should be able to teach science’ is, more or less, the purported translation. However, it doesn’t seem like the case. That is, as stated by the NCSE in the report, “South Dakota’s Senate Bill 55…would have empowered science denial in the classroom.”
As with the long ignoble history of attempts to move against the rapidity of scientific progress—book burning, training only the religious elite, restriction of education to men, the exclusion of important points in the scientific oeuvre that are politically unpleasant or theologically incongruous—up to the present, here-and-now, the attempt at legal implementation of anti-scientific training seems like another instance to me.
Representatives from the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, the School Administrators of South Dakota, the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, the South Dakota Education Association, Climate Parents, and the state department of education testified—and that’s a good team roster—against the bill. They knew what was up.
They teach the kids, manage the community, and design the curriculum. Who would know better than them? I can’t think of many. Maybe, some of the super-involved parents. Even so, there was a “groundswell” leading up to the day before the event. These included “science education, civil liberties, and environmental groups.”
The Associated Press “reviewed the controversy.” Governor Dennis Daugaard saw the bill as not needed in South Dakota. “Teachers, parents, and scientists” took issue with SB 55. By this point, of course, it’s clear everyone, but a few, were against outright or took concern with SB 55. Some even called it “weasel-worded.”
There have been similar bills such as “Indiana’s Senate Resolution 17, Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 393, and Texas’s House Bill 1485. South Dakota’s was unique. It passed in the legislature chamber and the first to “die.” It is another bill of about 70 introduced since 2004. Thankfully, NCSE is on the case.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.