American Federation of Teachers (2014) *

Against So-Called Academic Freedom Bills that Undermine the Accurate Teaching of Evolution

WHEREAS, biological evolution is a fundamental underpinning of modern biological thought and research and is not the subject of controversy among scientists; and

WHEREAS, the unfettered teaching of evolution in public schools has been under attack since the early part of the 20th century and before; and

WHEREAS, the Supreme Court further declared in Edwards v. Aguillard that requirements to teach creation science in schools as an alternative to evolution are unconstitutional; and

WHEREAS, [a federal court] further declared in Kitzmiller v. Dover that requirements to teach intelligent design in schools as an alternative to evolution are unconstitutional; and

WHEREAS, a strategy to teach creationism, intelligent design or evolution denial in public science classrooms has emerged with the passage of laws intended to teach these theories as science under the guise of protecting academic freedom in the classroom; and

WHEREAS, these laws may include misleading provisions, such as to teach “the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution,” and offer students “protection for subscribing to a particular position on views regarding biological or chemical evolution” (Discovery Institute, “Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution,” 2007); and

WHEREAS, these laws may include misleading provisions, such as to help students develop “critical thinking skills” on “controversial issues” and direct teachers to discuss “the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories” (Louisiana Science Education Act, 2008); and

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers believes that teachers already endeavor “to create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific subjects” (Tennessee H.B. 268/S.B. 893) and indeed all subjects within their curricula; and

WHEREAS, over 50 of these bills have been introduced in 13 state legislatures since 2004, and more have already been introduced in 2013 than in all of 2012; and

WHEREAS, two of these bills (Louisiana S.B. 561/733 in 2008 and Tennessee H.B. 368 in 2011) have become law in their respective states; and

WHEREAS, the American Association of University Professors says of these bills: “Such efforts run counter to the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding evolution and are inconsistent with a proper understanding of the meaning of academic freedom”; and

WHEREAS, the National Center for Science Education declares: “Teachers have no freedom to misinform and miseducate students.  It is scientifically inappropriate and educationally irresponsible to present [intelligent design] under its own name or in any guise as scientifically credible. And it is unconstitutional to do so in the public schools”:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers encourages and expects science teachers, in presenting evolution and other topics, to understand, respect and communicate the consensus of the scientific community in order to present the science curriculum effectively to their students; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will be on alert for, and opposed to, bills at the federal and state levels that attempt to use the guise of academic freedom as a means of introducing creationism, intelligent design or evolution denial into science classrooms.

Table of Contents