House Committee Advances 'Monkey Bill'

Image of Oklahoma State Capitol

The bad news is that the House Common Education Committee passed a bill Tuesday that attacks the teaching of evolution and global warming science in public schools.

The good news is that the close vote, 9 to 8 for approval, indicates the bill might not enjoy wide support and could get killed in the legislative process, most likely in the Senate.

But the approval of any conservative extremist bill is possible this session in the GOP-dominated legislature in which Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate.

House Bill 1674, sponsored by Gus Blackwell, a Laverne Republican, argues that teaching evolution, global warming and other scientific areas can cause controversy. Thus, school administrators will be directed to “assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies.”

The bill’s main purpose seems to be to introduce into science classrooms quackery such as intelligent design theory (i.e., creationism) to refute evolution theory and the extremist political agenda of Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe to refute the existence of global warming.

It’s no accident that many conservatives here are focusing on eliminating rational, scientific discourse in Oklahoma because it goes against their world and religious views. Unfortunately, this bill would dumb down our students, make it difficult to teach real science in schools and ensure Oklahoma retains the low college graduation rate that hurts many important state businesses, which need an educated workforce. Certainly, if the bill passes it would make the state a laughing stock in many parts of the world, but there’s nothing especially new about that.

The eight legislators voting against the bill included three Republicans, but those opposed to the bill fell one vote short. The full House will probably pass the bill, but there’s some hope it could get bottled up in a Senate committee. Tennessee and Louisiana have passed similar legislation, dubbed “the monkey bill” because of its relationship to issues presented in the 1925 Scopes Trial.

For years, Oklahoma’s intellectual community has worked to prevent this type of backwards legislation to make it into law. It’s time to step up to the plate again. Education leaders need to speak out.