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Oklahoma Lawmaker Sally Kern Proposes Bill That Forces Teachers To Question Evolution

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"Oklahoma Lawmaker Sally Kern Proposes Bill That Forces Teachers To Question Evolution"

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State Rep. Sally Kern (R) has proposed the second anti-evolution bill this year in Oklahoma. Entitled the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” the bill, which will be first considered next month, would require the state and local authorities to “assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies” and permit teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review” the scientific strengths and weaknesses of “existing theories.” But the only topics mentioned in the bill as contestable are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

In an attempt to legitimize the bill, Kern said, “It’s a simple fact that the presentation of some issues in science classes can lead to controversy, which can discourage teachers from engaging students in an open discussion of the issues.” However,
Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education previously released a critique against a similar bill, SB 320 — which died in committee in February 2009 and only differs slightly from Kern’s bill — that said, “promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest”:

‘Promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest… Evolution as a process is supported by an enormous and continually growing body of evidence. Evolutionary theory has advanced substantially since Darwin’s time and, despite 150 years of direct research, no evidence in conflict with evolution has ever been found.’ With respect to the supposed ‘weaknesses’ of evolution, OESE added, ‘they are phony fabrications, invented and promoted by people who don’t like evolution.’

Kern is a relentless advocate for anti-evolution legislation in Oklahoma, so the newest bill comes as no surprise. Kern was the head sponsor of HB 2107, which would have called for “academic freedom” in connection to “biological or chemical origins of life.” The bill passed the House by a vote of 77-10 in March 2006, but then came to its demise when the legislature adjourned in May. Kern was also the lead sponsor for the House Concurrent Resolution 1043, which mandated the state board of education amend the state science standards so students could “critically evaluate scientific theories including, but not limited to, the theory of evolution.”

Kern has frequently used Oklahoma’s education system as a prop for her grandstanding. As the Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo points out, Kern fought vehemently against educational reforms to bolster Oklahoma’s chances in winning grants through the Race to the Top program, saying, “these are standards that are not American standards…Race to the Top is Obama’s baby.”

Kern also proclaimed that homosexuality is comparable to “toe-cancer” and that “it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam. Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it’s the death knell of this country.”

Paul Breer

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