AAAS Opposes Oklahoma’s Controversial Science Education Bill

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) expressed concern over proposed Oklahoma legislation that would encourage the state’s public school teachers to question the well-established science behind evolution and global climate change.

In a 21 March letter to state Senator John Ford, chair of the Oklahoma Senate Education Committee, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner reaffirmed that “there is virtually no scientific controversy among the overwhelming majority of researchers on the core facts of global warming and evolution.” The Oklahoma bill—HB1551—asserts scientific controversy where none exists, he writes, and will only serve “to confuse students, not enlighten them.”

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 56-12, on 15 March. The bill now has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee.

Among the bill’s aims are to teach critical thinking skills in areas including but not limited to “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” Leshner, who is also the publisher of the journal Science, notes that “such thinking is already inherent in the way science is taught.”

“To truly benefit the students of Oklahoma,” he writes, “teachers must present the best peer-reviewed research. Only in this way will students gain the strong understanding of science necessary to compete for high-skill jobs in an increasingly high-tech world economy.”

Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education Inc., a nonprofit organization that promotes education about the methods and values of science, concurred in a statement prepared last year, when the bill was first introduced. “This bill,” the group wrote, “will harm the Oklahoma economy, bring costly lawsuits, and irreparably harm our students’ education in science.”

In Tennessee, legislators are considering similar bills that would encourage teachers to explore the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of topics such as climate change and biological evolution. When one Tennessee bill (HB 368) appeared in 2011, AAAS strongly opposed its passage in a letter sent to members of the state’s House of Representatives.

AAAS this week reaffirmed its opposition to HB 368 and its counterpart SB 893. SB 893 passed the Tennessee Senate by a 24-8 vote on 19 March, and HB 368 was approved by the state House of Representatives by a 70-23 vote on 7 April 2011.

Links

Read the letter sent to Oklahoma state Senator John Ford, chair of the Senate Education Committee, by AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner.

Read the AAAS Board of Directors’ 18 February 2007 statement on climate change.

View AAAS’s past statements on evolution education and other evolution resources.