A Missouri lawmaker has proposed what ranks among the most anti-evolution legislation in recent years, which would require schools to notify parents if “the theory of evolution by natural selection” was being taught at their child’s school and give them the opportunity to opt out of the class.
The bill had its first public hearing Thursday after being introduced in late January.
State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), who sponsored the bill, told a local TV station last week that teaching only evolution in school was “indoctrination.”
“Our schools basically mandate that we teach one side,” he told KCTV. “It is an indoctrination because it is not objective approach.”
The bill is one of several anti-evolution proposals that have already appeared in statehouses across the country; the Daily Beast counted four states (Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Virginia) where legislation had been introduced. The proposals would allow for a range of approaches to evolution, from presenting a “debate” over evolution versus creationism to requiring that local school boards allow intelligent design to be included in biology courses
But Brattin’s bill appears to be the only one, and perhaps the first, that would mandate parental notification that their children were being taught evolution in school, the curriculum that most mainstream science teacher groups endorse.
Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, told TPM that he was not aware of any state legislation that had included a provision that parents be notified if evolution was being taught at their local schools.
“It’s an absolute infringement on people’s beliefs,” Brattin told the Kansas City Star of requiring schools to teach evolution. “What’s being taught is just as much faith and, you know, just as much pulled out of the air as, say, any religion.”
Unsurprisingly, the proposal has drawn criticism from those science teacher organizations.
The bill “would eviscerate the teaching of biology in Missouri,” Branch said in a statement. “Evolution inextricably pervades the biological sciences; it therefore pervades, or at any rate ought to pervade, biology education at the K–12 level. There simply is no alternative to learning about it; there is no substitute activity.”
“The value of a high school education in Missouri would be degraded,” Branch said.
Brattin’s bill provides:
The policy shall require the school district or charter school to notify the parent or legal guardian of each student enrolled in the district of:
(1) The basic content of the district’s or school’s evolution instruction to be provided to the student; and
(2) The parent’s right to remove the student from any part of the district’s or school’s evolution instruction.
The bill would also require schools to “make all curriculum materials used in the district’s or school’s evolution instruction available for public inspection … prior to the use of such materials in actual instruction.”
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