Yet another bill designed to dumb down Oklahoma students and stop any science-based economic development in the state has been introduced in the legislature.
This time it is Lawton Democrat Abe Deutschendorf who wants to bring creationism under its new name “intelligent design” to the school’s science classrooms.
House Bill 2526 states: “In any public school instruction concerning the theories of the origin of man and the earth which includes the theory commonly known as evolution, a board of education of a school district may include, as a portion of such instruction, the theory of intelligent design. Upon approval of the board of education, a teacher in the school district may use supporting evidence deemed necessary for instruction on the theory of intelligent design.”
The problem here is that intelligent design is NOT a scientific theory. It is religious-based conjecture, just a new and deceitful way for Christian fundamentalists to advance creationism. Evolution is a proven scientific theory backed by 150 years of solid proof and evidence. We absolutely should not discard basic scientific principles or the scientific method in our schools to teach a religious idea. That is theocracy.
A federal judge recently ruled that the school district in Dover, PA could not require teachers read a statement advocating intelligent design as a competing theory to the theory of evolution. Eventually all the school board members who voted to require the statement about intelligent design were voted out of office.
State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) has already introduced another bill, what we might call “the Oklahoma Religious Act,” which could allow school districts to teach intelligent design and might even enable students to sue teachers who might ask them to provide evidence for their religious arguments in a science class.
Those who support intelligent design belittle religious faith and deceitfully push their own narrow-minded fundamentalist views because these views themselves are deceitful. Many Christians accept the basic principles of the theory of evolution. Evolution makes no claims about religious beliefs, and many scientists reconcile their beliefs in evolution and the Christian concept of God.
(I have written about the bogus idea of intelligent design in previous posts, including the post prior to this one. Please read it for more background information if you are interested.)
Political observers said we can expect similar bills pushing for intelligent design from state Reps. Ann Coody (R-Lawton) and Paul Wesselhoft (R-Moore) and state Sen. Mike Mazzei (R-Tulsa). In addition, Oklahoma Republican senators have adopted an anti-family platform pushing for the teaching of intelligent design in schools.
In a recent mailing, the Oklahoma Evolution List Serve, which is doing an excellent job monitoring this important issue, says, “Citizens concerned about science education in Oklahoma and the attraction of scientists and science-based industries to Oklahoma should contact the authors of these bills, their legislators and the Chair and members of the Common Education committees in both the House and Senate.”
Oklahomans need to look no further than Dover, Pennsylvania when it comes to the state's political movement to dumb down our students with faux creationism or intelligent design.
The newly-elected school board there recently rescinded the board’s earlier decision to include a statement about intelligent design in science classrooms. This comes after a federal judge ruled it was illegal and the community ousted the former school board members who dragged their small district through an embarrassing debacle that will cost local taxpayers there thousands of dollars in legal fees.
The Dover case, and especially the ousting of the school board, has even caused the right-wing’s darling, Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, to back away from intelligent design after becoming one of its most visible, national supporters.
Intelligent design is a religious concept, not a scientific theory, which argues the natural world was created by an intelligent designer or God. It is creationism in disguise. Its supporters are primarily fundamentalist Christians.
Evolution is an accepted scientific theory that argues the national world has evolved or changed over billions of years. It is accepted by an overwhelming majority of the nation’s scientists and science educators.
There is a huge difference between an accepted “scientific” theory such as evolution and a simple conjecture or idea such as intelligent design. Those who support intelligent design cannot provide one shred of scientific evidence for their claims. They criticize the overwhelming evidence of evolution without offering their own evidence or even a scientific methodology to prove their claims.
In the end, intelligent design cheapens religious faith because it is a hollow lie promoted by rhetorical deceit used by Christian fundamentalists to make everyone think like them. What type of religion is a religion that sanctions lying and deceitfulness? (You might as well believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster.)
None of this matters to Oklahoma Republicans, of course, who have announced they plan to introduce some type of anti-evolution legislation this upcoming session.
Apparently state Rep. Thad Balkman (R-Norman) will probably not introduce a bill this upcoming session mandating Oklahoma schools teach intelligent design as a competing theory to evolution.
Instead, he may support other anti-evolution legislation potentially sponsored by state Reps. Paul Wesselhoft (R-Moore), Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City), and Ann Coody (R-Lawton), and state Sen. Mike Mazzei (R-Moore).
All of these Republicans may sponsor such legislation, according to recent information posted on the Democrats of Oklahoma Community Forums.
Oklahoma Republican Senators have already announced they will push for intelligent design in schools as part of their platform in 2006. Balkman was the first politician to announce he might sponsor the legislation. One can speculate he has backed away from it because he was worried some of his constituency in Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma and many scientists and scholars, might not support him on this particular issue.
There are several intelligent design movements sponsored by Christian fundamentalists in states throughout the country this year. The Dover case does not mean the end to these movements.
It is crucial that educated Oklahomans speak out against mandating intelligent design as a competing theory to evolution in public science classrooms. If anti-evolution legislation is offered this upcoming legislative session, the state’s university presidents and faculty need to speak out against it as well as public school superintendents, principals and teachers.
Oklahoma should not dumb down its students by teaching religious concepts as science. Discuss intelligent design in religion or philosophy or contemporary news courses, but do not teach students that scientific methods and experimentation do not matter. They do matter, and they are vitally important to all of us.
In addition, state or local governmental bodies in Oklahoma should not spend one dime defending the teaching of creationism through massive legal fees like the Dover School District.
The Oklahomans For Excellence in Science (OESE) website monitors attacks on the theory of evolution in the state.
When Oklahoma’s richest, most powerful business people come together with the state’s intelligentsia to form a quasi-political coalition, you know, well, you know pigs are flying and armadillos are directing traffic, right?
But a group of business people the Associated Press described as a “Who’s Who” of power brokers in the state filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging the TABOR initiative petition that would put a constitutional measure limiting the growth of the state budget on the November ballot.
Most educators and state educational organizations, from the Oklahoma Education Association to the Oklahoma Conference of the American Association of University Professors, have been outspoken in their opposition to the measure for months.
The new lawsuit claims the submitted petition is “deceptive and misleading” and does not include enough valid signatures. The protest was filed against the Oklahoma Supreme Court and Rick Carpenter, of Tulsa, who led the drive locally with out-of-state money.
Carpenter, a “right-wingnut” (see image above), says the lawsuit will have no effect on the petition’s validity, and that TABOR will be on the November ballot, according to local news account. The petition needs 219,000 signatures.
If the TABOR constitutional measure is approved, the state budget’s annual growth would be tied to the inflation rate and population increase. Any money leftover after this formula is applied would have to be given back to taxpayers.
The one state that has adopted TABOR, or the so-called Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, was Colorado. Voters there recently rescinded it because it had devastated that state’s educational systems and economy.
But the Colorado experience did not stop out-of-state elites from coming into Oklahoma and literally buying enough signatures to put the TABOR issue on the ballot. These people figured Oklahomans were so stupid, they could come in here and lie and manipulate, and no one would care,
But we did care, and we stood up. Meanwhile, Okie Funk and many others were wondering when the state leadership would stand up to really fight this issue.
How could they just stand by and watch the disgusting spectacle of out-of-state, ultra-rich, elites with nothing but an ideology and a whim destroy the state’s economy, educational systems, and infrastructure? How could they stand by and watch Grover Norquistand his crowd use Oklahoma as an experiment in their quest to transfer as much money as possible to the wealthiest people in our country at the expense of elementary schools.
On Wednesday, that all changed. The group of business people who serve as “protestants” (i.e. protestors) against the petition include Clifford Hudson, CEO of Sonic Corp and chair of the Oklahoma City School Board, Aubrey McClendan, CEO of Chesapeake Corp, J. Larry Nichols, CEO of Devon Energy, and Luke R. Corbett, CEO of Kerr-McGee Corp.
That’s right . . . Sonic, Chesapeake, Devon, Kerr-McGee.
And another protestor is Clayton Bennett, who is an extremely powerful, local businessman married to Louise Gaylord Bennett, a daughter of the late Edward L. Gaylord, the longtime publisher of The Daily Oklahoman. Louise Bennett assists her sister, Christy Gaylord Everest, in running newspaper these days, according to Wikipedia.
Count on The Oklahoman coming out against the petition soon, though its editorial page has leaned heavily in TABOR’s direction, criticizing those who spoke up against the lies of those people gathering signatures for two dollars a name. Its mantra then was that everyone should just step aside and let the petition go forward, so we could vote on it in November. As I recall, according to one editorial, people like me who spoke up were trying to stop American democracy or some nonsense like that.
Also, local civic leader G. T. Blankenship and Tulsa businessman John Brock signed on against the petition. Both are listed as trustees of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a local, conservative think tank which has been highly supportive of TABOR. I wonder what OCPA leaders Max Nichols and Brandon Dutcher think about the lawsuit? So far there is nothing about it on the OCPA Web site.
Other local people of interest on the lawsuit include V. Burns Hargis, vice president of the Bank of Oklahoma, and Kirk Humphreys, Oklahoma City’s former mayor.
What is especially interesting about the lawsuit is that it pits some powerful right-wing business people against others in their camp who share their basic ideology and reality about the world. What is going on here? Is there a split among the cut-taxes-for-the-rich-no-matter-what crowd? It there trouble in Rich City, folks?
More importantly, what were the political tradeoffs on this deal, and how will these tradeoffs affect ordinary people like you and me? Are more tax cuts for the rich forthcoming this legislative session? Count on it.
Oh yeah, the lawsuit was filed by the Crowe & Dunlevy law firm, one of the most prestigious and powerful legal firms in the state.
What is encouraging about this lawsuit is that it means the rich and powerful in this state do have a breaking point when it comes to ensuring we provide our children and college students here a decent education. This is not the typical, conservative lip service about improving schools with assessment tests and school choice and vouchers and No Child Left Behind. This is real action.
So, my fellow Okies, don’t be surprised when you look up today and see the state’s pig-filled sky or when an armadillo waves you through an intersection that has a broken stoplight.
Sally Kern’s Christian Crusade Continues Onward
Okay, the bigwigs have come out against TABOR and The Daily Oklahoman has come out against the teaching of intelligent design in our science classrooms.
So when will the state leadership come against the continuing Christian crusade of State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City)?
Kern’s latest attempt to ensure Oklahoma becomes the first theocratic state in America is her “Student Freedom of Religious Expression in Schools Act.” Yes, you read that title correctly, and the bill did pass out of a House committee Wednesday.
House Bill 2428 would allow students at schools to pass out religious material, pray, express their religious viewpoints, and be absent from school for religious events. Of course, the bill says “religious” not “Christian” (wink, wink).
Everyone knows this is bill and others like it pending in Oklahoma and elsewhere across the country are part of the Christian right-wing theocratic agenda.
Can you imagine what it would be like at state high schools if this bill gets passed?
I picture students accosted in the hallways by religious zealots and teachers of all disciplines unable to present material that might go against Christian viewpoints.
I imagine large groups of intolerant Christian students intentionally excluding people of other faiths in activities. I see a group of students holding hands in a classroom praying loudly and openly before a test, daring the teacher to say something, anything that might be construed as anti-Christian.
Our schools will become freaky, religious enclaves in violation of basic founding principles separating church and state.
The bill lacks commonsense as well. It would create all types of problems. How can anyone support such a weird, murky measure that does not take into account its real-world ramifications? How will the bill affect high school classrooms, the hallways, the lunchroom, the parking lots, etc.?
In today’s volatile world of religious extremism and religious-inspired violence, the last thing we need is to add religious tension in our high schools.
Maybe we could just build a chapel in each state high school, pass a “Christian Students Do No Have To Go To Class Freedom Act” and allow students to spend ALL school hours praying and discussing the Bible, especially Genesis. Then we could create and build secular charter schools for everyone else. These schools would honor strict limits on separation of church and state. They would promote the study of science and math, English, technology, and other real academic subjects, not fundamentalist Christianity.
This is from Okie Funk’s “No Hyperbole Zone”: If Kern’s act passes and holds up in the courts, it could become impossible to get a real high school education in this state.
Religious moderates and secular people need to speak up. And where is the state leadership on this bill and on all the freaky religious legislation proposed by Kern and others? When will they truly come out against crackpots like Kern and say enough is enough? If Kern’s bill passes, then, really, so what if TABOR becomes law? Who wants to fund religious extremism in our schools, anyway?