Missouri schools may have to "alert" parents when evolution is taught

Illustration for article titled Missouri schools may have to alert parents when evolution is taught

In what may be the first of its kind, a proposed bill in Missouri would require that parents be notified when evolution is being taught to their children at school. They could then pull them from the class. Critics say the bill would "eviscerate" the teaching of biology.

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The bill is being sponsored by State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), and it had its first public hearing on February 13th, 2014. Though many anti-evolution proposals are currently being considered across the United States, this one appears to be the only bill — and perhaps the first — that actually mandates parental notification when evolution is being taught to their children. The language of the bill reads like this:

Any school district or charter school which provides instruction relating to the theory of evolution by natural selection shall be required to have a policy on parental notification and a mechanism where a parent can choose to remove the student from any part of the district's or school's instruction on evolution. The policy shall require the school district or charter school to notify the parent or legal guardian of each student enrolled in the district of:

(1) The basic content of the district's or school's evolution instruction to be provided to the student; and

(2) The parent's right to remove the student from any part of the district's or school's evolution instruction.

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Speaking to a local TV station two weeks ago, Brattin said, "Our schools basically mandate that we teach one side. It is an indoctrination because it is not objective approach."

So apparently teaching NSTA-approved curriculum is indoctrination. Riiiiight.

Talking Points Memo reports:

Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, told TPM that he was not aware of any state legislation that had included a provision that parents be notified if evolution was being taught at their local schools.

"It's an absolute infringement on people's beliefs," Brattin told the Kansas City Star of requiring schools to teach evolution. "What's being taught is just as much faith and, you know, just as much pulled out of the air as, say, any religion."

Unsurprisingly, the proposal has drawn criticism from those science teacher organizations.

The bill "would eviscerate the teaching of biology in Missouri," Branch said in a statement. "Evolution inextricably pervades the biological sciences; it therefore pervades, or at any rate ought to pervade, biology education at the K–12 level. There simply is no alternative to learning about it; there is no substitute activity."

"The value of a high school education in Missouri would be degraded," Branch said.

Image: JuliusKielaitis/Shutterstock.

Related: A Map Showing Which U.S. Public Schools Teach Creationism to Kids | Top 10 claims made by creationists to counter scientific theories

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DISCUSSION

Here's a short story:

Mac Thompson walked into the classroom, his eyes hard, his face a rictus of suspended fury. "Evolution." He spat the word, as though it was some sort of offal in his mouth. Dirty and repulsive. He was wearing a conservative business suit, clean shaven and complete with dress shirt and tie - Sunday's Finest some might call it. In fact, there were quite a few parents that were absolutely sure he was a stalwart church goer - considering how strict and tough he was in his classroom.

Jimmy Cormak gulped, being the science nerd in the class. His parents were non-practicing Christians, and never forced him to go to church. And they were pretty pro-science. He looked back to some of the now smug looking students - these were the ones that smirking and practically giggling - who were totally hooked on the bible-study style teaching that was becoming all the rage in the classes. He had, by measure, abstained from reciting the Pledge. Not because he objected to the oath of allegiance to the country, but because some hick had added "under God" in a pique of religious righteousness. He'd been sent to the principal, and had other parents berate him in public and private because he wasn't a proper Christian boy.

"Everyone calls me, Mr. Thompson, and if you know previous classes' students, then you know this will be one of the most fun classes you have in your years here. Provided you obey the rules of the lab. But first... to deal with that pesky little word I muttered when I came in here... lets see," Pulls out a list and looks at it harshly, then with a sigh. "Ok, Sara Bailey, Jim Cormak, Danielle Smith, Jade Smith, Susan Christoper and Billy Parker... stay in the room. The rest of you, report to Mrs. Jackson's Home-Ec class, cause your parent's don't want you being taught Evolution."

The 28 students that were not named looked shocked, including the smug looking ones. Mrs. Jackson's class was one of the hardest and harshest for any student. And she was twice as hard on girls as she was on boys - because she expected them to work double-hard in the kitchen as that was "their place". Tammy Rae looked up, tears in her eyes, "But Mr. Thompson, I want to be a Doctor!"

"Sorry, Ms. Rae. Your parents decided that wasn't going to be the path you were going to go down." Mr. Thompson said sadly.

Tommy Howard looked to the front of the class, "And me becoming an Astronaut? I wanted to... Ms. Jackson's home-ec class isn't going to get me into a good school!"

Mac shook his head slowly in the negative. "Sorry, its the rules. I'm the science teacher, and I'm going to teach science, not that crap they've been suggesting for the last few years. When your parents heard that, they decided to pull you from the class. So off with you, don't make it any harder than it has to be - besides, Mrs. Jackson hates when students are too late, even under circumstances like this"

Once all the other students were gone, Mac sighed deeply. He looked drawn and beaten, as though he'd just done one of the worst things a teacher could ever do. Jimmy looked at him and asked, "Are you okay, Mr. Thompson?"

He let out a short chirp of a laugh. How do you tell the kids that within a year his science class won't exist anymore, and that if they want to learn real science, they'll have to go somewhere else? He'll be out of a job here, having to move to another school just so that he can continue to teach the class he loves. At least, there, he can still do what he wants. But what about these poor kids? The ones that left... and the ones that were still here? "Its going to be a tough year... going to have to cover all the stuff I usually cover in two, if you guys are up for it. Now its going to be hard, this class was never a big thing with the board anyways, but we'll do it proper and if you do all the work, I'll sign a paper for you saying that you've done both bio I and II that you can include with your transcripts. So, lets get cracking!"

With a slight smile that never really hit his eyes, he clapped his hands together. "Ok, we're not going to need all these chairs, so lets move everything around so we can have a better learning environment." He looked back at his desk, and then grabbed one of the uncomfortable student desks and whipped it around. "Gather your desks in a semi circle in front of this one, and we'll get started on Chapter 3. I'm not big on the preface, you're not learning English here or who need to know about who wrote most of the book..."