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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2014/12/19

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Disappointing news from Scotland, but good news from Ohio and
encouraging news from Wyoming.

DISAPPOINTING NEWS FROM SCOTLAND

The Scottish government rejected the proposal to ban the teaching of
creationism in publicly funded schools in Scotland, according to the
Glasgow Herald (December 16, 2014). The head of Curriculum Unit at the
Learning Directorate told the newspaper, "I can ... confirm that there
are no plans to issue guidance to schools or education authorities to
prevent the presentation of creationism, intelligent design or similar
doctrines by teachers or school visitors. The evidence available
suggests that guidance on these matters is unnecessary."

As NCSE previously reported, the Scottish Secular Society filed a
petition with the Scottish parliament, calling for a ban on "the
presentation in Scottish publicly funded schools of separate creation
and of Young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established
science of evolution, common descent, and deep time," adding, "Nothing
in this request precludes the discussion of such doctrines in their
proper place, as part of the study of ideas, neither does it nor can
it infringe on individual freedom of belief."

Part of the impetus for the petition was recent creationist incursions
into the Scottish classroom. In 2013, for example, as the Telegraph
(September 13, 2013) reported, it was discovered that a school
chaplain in East Kilbride distributed creationist literature calling
evolution a myth. The petitioners fear that such incidents may have
been just the tip of the iceberg. As the Reverend Michael Roberts told
the parliament, "It is almost impossible to determine the extent to
which such creationism has influenced classroom teaching."

The petition received a hearing before a parliamentary committee on
November 11, 2014; among the organizations submitting written
testimony was NCSE, which in a November 7, 2014, letter expressed its
support for the proposed ban. The committee agreed to write to the
Scottish government as well as the Educational Institute of Scotland,
the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, and the Association of
Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, to receive their views on the
matter.

The Scottish Secular Society expressed disappointment with the
government's response in a December 16, 2014, press release. "The
government's submission is not only disappointing but at the same time
short sighted and evasive, and fails to recognise the issue," Spencer
Fildes commented. "It would seem they are willing to openly endorse
the teaching and discussion of Creationism in what they call
'context'; but are unwilling to explicitly state it is forbidden even
in the science class."

For the story in the Glasgow Herald, visit:
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/schools-creationism-ban-rejected-by-scottish-government.114739893 

For the petition (PDF) and related documents, visit:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/gettinginvolved/petitions/petitionPDF/PE01530.pdf 
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/gettinginvolved/petitions/creationismguidance 

For the story in the Telegraph, visit:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10307520/Head-teachers-removed-in-row-over-creationist-church.html 

For Michael Roberts's comments (PDF), visit:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_PublicPetitionsCommittee/General%20Documents/PE1530_B_British_Centre_for_Science_Education_17.10.14.pdf 

For NCSE's letter (PDF), visit:
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_PublicPetitionsCommittee/General%20Documents/PE1530_L_National_Center_for_Science_Education_07.11.14.pdf 

For the press release from the Scottish Secular Society, visit:
http://www.scottishsecularsociety.com/scottish-government-responds-to-request-for-guidance-on-how-creationism-is-taught-in-schools-scottish-secular-society-fears-it-validates-creationist-teaching/ 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events outside the United States, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/international 

ANTISCIENCE BILL DIES IN OHIO

Ohio's House Bill 597 -- which if enacted would require students in
the state's public schools to "review, in an objective manner, the
scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories in
the [state science] standards" -- died in the legislature, according
to the Cleveland Plain Dealer (December 15, 2014).

As NCSE previously reported, HB 597, aimed primarily at eliminating
Common Core, also contained a provision requiring the state's science
standards to "prohibit political or religious interpretation of
scientific facts in favor of another." A sponsor of the bill, Andy
Thompson (R-District 95), explained that local school districts would
be allowed to teach creationism along with evolution and global
warming denial alongside climate science.

In the House Rules and Reference Committee, the objectionable
provision was removed, but it was replaced with the "strengths and
weaknesses" language, familiar from antiscience bills across the
country. The result was passed by the committee on November 5, 2014,
but a member of the committee who voted against the bill told the
Cleveland Plain Dealer (November 5, 2014) that she thought that it was
unlikely to proceed further.

According to the Plain Dealer, Thompson's subsequent attempts to bring
HB 597 to a vote and to attach it to other bills were unsuccessful.
Thompson told the newspaper, "Repeal will be high on the agenda next
year," but was not reported as commenting specifically on the issue of
the state science standards.

For information about Ohio's House Bill 597, visit:
http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=130_HB_597 

For the stories in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, visit:
http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/12/bills_to_rein_in_testing_and_t.html 
http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/11/bill_to_kill_the_common_core_w.html 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Ohio, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/ohio 

WYOMING TO UNBLOCK NGSS?

A bill to allow the Wyoming state board of education to adopt the Next
Generation Science Standards will be introduced in the legislature,
according to the Billings Gazette (December 15, 2014). John Patton
(R-District 29) told the newspaper, "What the bill does is pretty
straight forward and simple ... It simply removes Footnote No. 3 in
the appropriations bill. It means the State Board of Education can
continue with its work uninterrupted by the Legislature." He was
optimistic about the prospect for the bill's passage.

As NCSE previously reported, a footnote in Wyoming's budget for
2014-2016 precluded the use of state funds "for any review or
adoption" of the NGSS, and the treatment of climate change was cited
as the reason for the prohibition. The Wyoming state board of
education subsequently declined to develop a new set of science
standards independent of the NGSS. Despite the legislature's decision,
local school districts are free to adopt the NGSS, and about fifteen
(of forty-eight) have reportedly done so.

So far the NGSS have been adopted in thirteen states -- California,
Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey,
Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia -- plus
the District of Columbia. The treatment of evolution and climate
science in the standards occasionally provokes controversy (including
a recently dismissed lawsuit, COPE v. Kansas), but Wyoming is the only
state where their adoption was derailed explicitly over evolution or
climate science.

For the story in the Billings Gazette, visit:
http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/bill-would-repeal-controversial-science-standard-ban-in-wyoming/article_c8dcd019-2f02-59db-93fd-f8272b3d7f67.html 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Wyoming, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/wyoming 

WHAT'S NEW FROM THE SCIENCE LEAGUE OF AMERICA

Have you been visiting NCSE's blog, The Science League of America,
recently? If not, then you've missed:

* Eugenie C. Scott expressing wistfulness about the Steve that got away:
http://ncse.com/blog/2014/12/steve-that-got-away-0016057 

* Stephanie Keep applauding a good explanation of phylogenetic trees:
http://ncse.com/blog/2014/12/well-said-understanding-evolution-gets-it-right-to-surprise-0016055 

* Josh Rosenau reflecting on the most recent poll on attitudes toward evolution:
http://ncse.com/blog/2014/12/disentangling-evolution-religion-0016049 

And much more besides!

For The Science League of America, visit:
http://ncse.com/blog 

Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website --
http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution and climate education and threats to them.

--
With best wishes for the holiday season,

Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x303
fax: 510-601-7204
800-290-6006
branch@ncse.com 
http://ncse.com 

Check out NCSE's new blog, Science League of America:
http://ncse.com/blog 

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