A legislative round-up in BioScience

07.24.2017

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"In statehouses around the country, the 2017 legislative session saw a flurry of attacks on science education," according to a story in the August 2017 issue of BioScience, published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. "This was 'on the busy side of normal,' according to Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, in Oakland, California."

The article focused on two bills. Florida's House Bill 989 was intended to make it easier for Floridians to challenge instructional materials used in the public schools, and its backers explicitly cited evolution and climate change as topics to which they took objection. The bill passed and was enacted in June 2017. 

Oklahoma's Senate Bill 393 would have empowered teachers to misrepresent "controversial" subjects and prevented administrators from restraining them. The bill passed the Senate but stalled in the House of Representatives. Bills like Oklahoma's are common, with over seventy introduced, often under the rubric "academic freedom," since 2004.

NCSE's Branch received the last word: "Branch notes that the 2017 legislative session was a further weakening of that strategy, with academic freedom laws being rewritten as nonbinding resolutions that passed in Alabama and Indiana. 'I would expect to see a lot more resolutions like that in states where sponsors have failed,' said Branch. 'At least they got something across the finish line.'"