Indiana newspapers decry antievolution bill

Indiana's newspapers are reacting to the prospective antievolution bill in Indiana. As NCSE previously reported, state senator Dennis Kruse (R-District 14) plans to introduce a bill that, in the words of the Indianapolis Star (December 4, 2012), "allows students to challenge teachers on issues, forcing them to provide evidence to back up their lessons." Kruse told the Star, "I would call it 'truth in education' to make sure that what is being taught is true ... if a student thinks something isn't true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true." While Kruse was not quoted as mentioning evolution in particular, his history of antievolution legislation is suggestive.

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel (December 6, 2012) remarked, "Proposed 'truth in education' legislation by Republican state Sen. Dennis Kruse of Auburn won't mention the terms 'creationism' or 'intelligent design' or 'evolution,' but don't doubt for a second that this is one more attempt to force a religious debate into science classrooms," adding, "The General Assembly should have none of it." The editorial echoed the president of the Indiana State Teachers Association in commenting, "The burden on teachers would be great," and quipping, "It's also easy to imagine students gaming the process and creating all sorts of havoc. OK, teacher, prove we actually landed on the moon. And, oh, while you're at it, prove it isn't made of green cheese."

Tim Swarens, writing in the Indianapolis Star (December 7, 2012), offered a prediction about the bill: "Perhaps it's an article of faith, but I choose to believe that Bosma [the speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives], Behning [the chair of the House Education Committee] and a majority of lawmakers will see that Kruse is badly misguided in pushing a bill that, if implemented, would undercut educators, embolden classroom mischief-makers, and send the wrong message to the rest of the nation about a state that wants to grow its science and technology sectors." Describing it as a misguided effort at legislative micromanagement of the classroom, Swarens concluded, "Kruse's bill should quietly expire as the 2013 session unfolds."

The Lafayette Journal and Courier (December 7, 2012) was especially concerned about Indiana's reputation, commenting, "For a state that lays claim to being a leader in education reform, it sure has a funny way of showing it when it comes to science education ... Indiana doesn't need another reason to look like the backwater hinterlands." The editorial also noted that Kruse is on record about his motivation, quoting him as saying, with reference to the prospective bill, "I'd guess 80 percent of Indiana would be oriented with the Bible and creation. Where you're at, at Purdue or IU, you might have more who are for evolution. But once you get out away from there, out into the hinterlands, I think you’ll see a lot more people receptive to it."

And Matthew Tully, writing in the Indianapolis Star (December 8, 2012), remarked, "Less than a year after Kruse and others in the state Senate failed to push an embarrassment of a bill through the legislature that would have allowed the teaching of creationism in science classes, the Auburn Republican is at it again. ... It's a silly idea at a time when seriousness is needed in the General Assembly. It's a distraction when the legislature should be focused on core education issues. It's a reminder that ideology far too often gets in the way of tackling important issues under the Statehouse dome. And it's an attempt to walk through the back door a bill that — thanks to sensible lawmakers, outraged voters and the courts — can't make it through the front."