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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2016/03/18

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

Disappointing news from Alabama. Everything you ever wanted to know
about the NCSE/Penn State climate change education survey. Plus good
news from the state legislatures of Louisiana, West Virginia, and

At its March 10, 2016, meeting, the Alabama state board of education
voted to retain a disclaimer about evolution mandated for the state's
textbooks, even though the new Alabama science standards describe
evolution as "substantiated with much direct and indirect evidence."
The vote accompanied the board's approval of the state textbook
committee's recommendations for the adoption of science textbooks.
Video of the vote is available on-line.

The first Alabama disclaimer, which described evolution as "a
controversial theory some scientists present," was mandated by the
Alabama state board of education in 1996. It was replaced in 2001 by a
second disclaimer, which described "[t]he theory of evolution by
natural selection" as controversial. A third disclaimer appeared in
the state science standards in 2005, but the board voted then to
retain the second disclaimer. It is thus the second disclaimer that
presumably will remain in Alabama's science textbooks.

At the meeting, Stephanie Bell, a board member who helped to write the
first disclaimer, praised the disclaimer as "a very positive addition"
that "fits in perfectly with the Course of Study." NCSE's executive
director Ann Reid was anything but enthusiastic, however, commenting,
"By voting to retain the disclaimer, the Alabama board of education is
continuing to send a scientifically unwarranted and pedagogically
irresponsible message to Alabama's teachers and students -- who
deserve better."

For the video of the vote (starting around 15:25), visit: 

For the text of the (second) Alabama disclaimer, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Alabama, visit: 


Mixed Messages: How Climate Change is Taught in America's Public
Schools, a detailed report of the first nationwide survey of climate
change education in the United States, conceived and funded by NCSE
and conducted in collaboration with researchers at Pennsylvania State
University, is now available on-line.

The report is divided into four parts. Part 1 focuses on what teachers
do in their classrooms; part 2 focuses on teachers' educational
background and scientific knowledge; part 3 focuses on the political
and cultural forces and the personal values that influence teachers;
and part 4 outlines the policy implications of the data.

The report ends by expressing the hope "that the results of the survey
... will help guide those whose goal it is to ensure that today's
students and the next generation of citizens have the scientific
foundation that will allow them to grapple with complex proposals to
address the challenges of climate change."

Mixed Messages expands on the results and analyses previously reported
in "Climate Confusion Among U.S. Teachers," published in the journal
Science, and in "Climate Education in the Classroom: Cloudy with a
Chance of Confusion," published in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The NCSE/Penn State study received extensive coverage in the press,
including from the Guardian, Newsweek, the Washington Post, Mother
Jones, Time, and The New York Times (all from February 11, 2016), as
well as the satirical The Onion (February 15, 2016) and the Natural
Resources Defense Council's On Earth (March 13, 2016).

For Mixed Messages (PDF), visit: 

For "Climate Confusion Among U.S. Teachers" (PDF), visit: 

For "Climate Education in the Classroom: Cloudy with a Chance of
Confusion" (subscription required), visit: 

And for the press coverage, visit: 


Louisiana's Senate Bill 156 would, if enacted, repeal the state's
Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act,
which was enacted in 1981 and declared to be unconstitutional by the
United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987. Yet the
law remains on the books. SB 156  was prefiled by Dan Claitor
(R-District 16) on March 3, 2016, and referred to the Senate Committee
on Education.

It is Claitor's third attempt to repeal the law. In 2013, his
amendment to Senate Bill 205 to repeal the 1981 law was approved by
the Senate -- despite the opposition of Ben Nevers (D-District 12),
the senate sponsor of the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act of
2008, who argued that it would be useful for the law to be on the
books in case the Edwards decision is ever reversed -- but was later
stripped from the bill.

In 2014, Claitor introduced Senate Bill 70, which would have repealed
the 1981 law, prompting Barbara Forrest, Professor of Philosophy at
Southeastern Louisiana University and a member of NCSE's board of
directors to comment, "It shouldn't take twenty-seven years and a
Supreme Court case to convince the legislature to repeal the Balanced
Treatment Act." But SB 70 was rejected by the Senate without debate.

Passage of SB 156 would not affect the so-called Louisiana Science
Education Act of 2008. Five attempts to repeal the 2008 law -- SB 70
in 2011, SB 374 in 2012, SB 26 in 2013, SB 175 in 2014, and SB 74 in
2015 -- have been introduced by Karen Carter Peterson (D-District 5).
So far no such bill has been introduced in the current legislative
session, which begins on March 14, 2016, and ends no later than June
6, 2016.

For Louisiana's Senate Bill 156 as introduced (PDF), visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: 


Both houses of West Virginia's legislature have agreed on a version of
House Bill 4014 that would require only the review, not the repeal, of
the recently adopted state science standards, according to the
Charleston Gazette-Mail (March 12, 2016). The bill now proceeds to
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) for his consideration.

As NCSE previously reported, HB 4014 was originally aimed at repealing
West Virginia's standards for mathematics and English language arts.
But the House of Delegates amended it also to repeal the standards for
science, with several legislators citing their concern about the
inclusion of climate change in the standards as their reason.

The Senate Education Committee subsequently amended the bill. As
revised, it would establish a panel appointed by deans at Marshall
University and West Virginia University and supervised by the
Chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission to review the
science standards "and recommend revisions that it considers

The Senate then passed the amended bill, which returned to the House
of Delegates. According to the Gazette-Mail, "The House version of the
bill included a one-year block on science standards, but House members
retreated on that proposal Saturday [March 12, 2016 -- the last day of
the legislative session] to ensure the Senate's support of the bill."

For information about West Virginia's House Bill 4014 from the
legislature, visit: 

For the story in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in West Virginia, visit: 


House Bill 899 and Senate Bill 1018 both died in committee on March
11, 2016, when the Florida legislature adjourned. Ostensibly aimed at
empowering taxpayers to object to the use of specific instructional
materials in the public schools, the bills were promoted by groups
with a record of objecting to the treatment of evolution and climate
change in textbooks, as NCSE previously reported.

"We're fortunate and happy that these bad bills didn't get out of the
starting gate," Florida Citizens for Science's Brandon Haught told
NCSE. "The good thing to come out of this brief fight is that a clear
anti-science motivation behind these bills is now documented. The
bills' sponsors and supporters aren't likely to give up, though. But
we'll be ready, just as we have been for a full ten years now."

For Florida's House Bill 899 and Senate Bill 1018 as introduced, visit: 

For Florida Citizens for Science's website and blog, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Florida, visit: 


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

* Stephanie Keep pondering the momentous question of state dinosaurs: 

* Emily Schoerning describing evolution and climate change outreach by
a group of nuns: 

* Glenn Branch examining a creationist's embroidered rendition of a
familiar anecdote: 

And much more besides!

For The Science League of America, visit: 

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


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600
Oakland CA 94612-2922
fax 510-788-7971 

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