A stealth anti-fact bill needs to be stalled in the South Dakota statehouse.
Please tell the South Dakota House to vote down Senate Bill 55, a bill that could permit the teaching of unscientific curriculum in schools. State Sen. Jeff Monroe, the chief sponsor of the bill, has proposed similar language in three previous sessions and each time it has been rightly rejected. This time, the Senate passed it 23 to 12. It's before the House now (HJ 217).
At first glance, the text of the bill doesn't sound problematic, "No teacher may be prohibited from helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses of scientific information presented in courses." The catch is that the bill is intended to undermine the teaching of scientific facts: climate change, evolution and more.
One of Monroe's earlier formulations of the bill was more explicit, it prohibited schools from refusing to teach "intelligent design." Monroe gave away his anti-science agenda last year: "The standards dictate that a certain viewpoint be taught, rather than allowing the students to look at both sides and decide the scientific strengths and weaknesses of any theory that's being taught in school."
The theory of evolution is as much a scientific fact as the theory of gravity or the germ theory of disease, despite whatever Monroe's religion tells him.
The bill is dangerous for two reasons.
First, teachers with a creationist bent will see this as a green light to preach their religion instead of teaching facts. This is a clear violation of the First Amendment because students would be forced to accept their educator's personal spiritual views as fact while in a secular institution. Public schools are not permitted to teach creationism, intelligent design, or any other creatively named religious belief as science, regardless of what the state Legislature says.
Second, the bill could have some unintended consequences. While creationism can never be taught regardless of what the bill says, the text might be used to protect teachers who choose to promote, for example, the anti-science, anti-reality abstinence-only education standards.
The bill is irresponsible and fundamentally runs counter to the goal of a secular education. Teaching viewpoints that ignore or distort science and reality should never be tolerated in schools.
Contact the South Dakota House and tell it to reject SB 55. Click here to directly phone and email your representative in a quick two-step automated procedure. This link will take you to the number to call your state representative. The phone number at the top of the page changes as you click on the name of your legislator.