Arizona’s Senate Bill 1213 died on February 22, 2013, when the deadline for Senate bills to be heard in their Senate committees passed. A typical instance of the “academic freedom” strategy for undermining the integrity of science education, SB 1213 specifically targeted “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming[,] and human cloning” as supposedly controversial. Unusually, however, a sponsor of the bill, Judy Burges (R-District 22), told the Arizona Star (February 5, 2013) that climate science was her primary concern, complaining of imbalance in the presentation of climate change in the public schools.
But Andrew Morrill, the president of the Arizona Education Association, told theStar that there was no need for the legislation. “The curriculum for teaching science is already balanced,” he said. “If there’s overwhelming evidence on one side, then within the science curriculum there’s going to be a look at that evidence.” He added, “The controversy is at the political level, not the scientific one.” (Morrill misattributed the language of the bill to the American Legislative Exchange Council; it is, rather, based on the language circulated by the Discovery Institute.)
he prime sponsors of SB 1213 were Judy Burges (R-District 22) and Chester Crandell (R-District 6), with Rick Murphy (R-District 21), Steve Pierce (R-District 1), Don Shooter (R-District 13), and Steve Yarbrough (R-District 17) as cosponsors. The bill was the first antiscience bill introduced in Arizona in at least the past decade; the last statewide controversy over the teaching of evolution was evidently in 2004, when the Arizona state board of education was lobbied, in the end unsuccessfully, to include a directive for teachers to discuss “intelligent design” in the state science education standards.
Senate Bill 758 (document), the so-called Oklahoma Science Education Act, which would have undermined the integrity of science education in the Sooner State, is dead. February 25, 2013, was the deadline for Senate bills to pass their committees, but the Senate Education Committee adjourned its February 25, 2013, meeting without considering it. Still active in the Oklahoma legislature is House Bill 1674 (document), styled the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act, which differs from SB 758 primarily in mentioning “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” as supposedly controversial topics. HB 1674 passed the House Education Committee on a 9-8 vote on February 19, 2013.
As usual in Oklahoma, resistance to the antievolution bills was spearheaded by the grassroots organization Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, whose board of governors includes a former member of NCSE’s board of directors, Frank J. Sonleitner, and a recipient of NCSE’s Friend of Darwin award, Victor H. Hutchison.
We welcome the failure of these anti-science “teach the controveresy” bills failing to become passed into law. It is a victory for science and science education over superstition and belief.