Frighteningly, these are all real scenarios that could occur under new education bills proposed this year. But the language in most of these bills is so obtuse that you might not even know if you live in one of the six states considering them (Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arizona, Missouri, and Indiana).
America, meet the new creationism-in-sheep's-clothing: The "academic freedom" bill.
Unlike bills that explicitly require intelligent design and religious curriculums to be taught in schools, academic freedom bills simply permit teachers, schools, and students to explore alternative theories without repercussions. Sounds harmless, right? But Eric Meikle, education project director at the National Center for Science Education, explains that what these bills really do is "open the door for creationist literature." And in the last few years, the number of these bills has skyrocketed, with 51 proposed since 2004, and twice as many proposed this year than in all of 2012. (Remember, it's only February).
Needless to say, science teachers aren't thrilled. "Intelligent design and anti-global warming curriculums harm the general public's perceptions of science, which can decrease students' interest in pursuing science careers," says Kathy Trundle, president of the Association for Science Teacher Education. "In turn, U.S. advancements in science [are] negatively impacted." Rick Grosberg, an evolution and ecology professor at the University of California at Davis, points out that "the mere act of teaching intelligent design as if it were an alternative scientific explanation confuses students and the public about what science is."
The secret weapon in these bills is the idea that pupils should understand the "strengths and weaknesses" of different scientific theories. Which theories? Well, as a bill proposed by four Republican state senators in Arizona makes clear, that would be "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning." Coincidentally, these are the exact same theories that House Bill 1674 in Oklahoma, proposed by GOP state Rep. Gus Blackwell, considers controversial. His legislation even prevents teachers from flunking students who write papers debunking their textbook material. Seriously.