< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://pointprogression.powerblogs.com" /> < link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://pointprogression.powerblogs.com" /> Point Progression: Future Headline: Teacher sued by former student for lecture on evolution

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Future Headline: Teacher sued by former student for lecture on evolution

And you thought I was joking...

It seems like [Rep. Dennis] Baxley [R-Ocala] has a handy way of dealing with all those nasty liberal professors spouting unfounded ideas in Florida college classrooms and harassing students who disagree. Let them sue the bastards.

In a bill titled, ironically, the "Academic Freedom Bill of Rights", Baxley has proposed that:

"Students have a right to expect that their academic freedom and the quality of their education will not be infringed upon by instructors who persistently introduce controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to the subject of study and serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose."
He doesn't go on to explain what a "legitimate pedagogical purpose" would be, or to define what exactly is controversial, assumingly so it would be a fair playing field. We wouldn't want to infringe on the rights of students to claim that the holocaust never happened, after all. In a sharply worded rebuke to the insanity this bill would allow [Rep. Dan] Gelber [D-Miami Beach] states:

"Similar suits could be filed by students who don’t believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by [University of Florida] medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body"
Scientific inquiry and advancement is a conservative process by nature. If an idea is well founded and supported by the evidence it gains acceptance, eventually becoming a standard part of scientific teaching curricula. Quantum physics, gravity, germ theory, evolution, take your pick from the hundreds of other once unbelievable notions. All have withstood the tests (literally) of time, and all are now understood by scientists and science professors as valid subjects for a classroom setting.

Creationism... that's a whole new ball-game, with hundreds of players all vying for their chance to preach on the soapbox. But if you're talking more specifically of Intelligent Design [ID], as Baxler obviously is with this bill, you get into the more sticky area of proving it. And many in the scientific community feel as Paul Z. Myers, associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota-Morris, does:

"Intelligent Design (ID) has failed to meet even the minimal standards of evidence and scholarship we should expect of the science we teach our children. Teaching it steals time from more vital subjects in which our kids should be grounded.

Science is a conservative process. Most college-level introductory textbooks contain only material that has stood the test of time and has been confirmed independently. ID proponents have not only failed to provide any evidence for their thesis, they aren't even trying. There are no labs doing research on this subject; all the papers the Discovery Institute has tried to publish are exercises in spin, in which they try to distort biology researchers' work to fit their preconceptions. With no established body of results, no current work, and no promising prospects for future research, why should ID be supported? It's a dead end. It is absurd to propose that our kids learn about a subject that no legitimate scientists are pursuing and that has no utility."
So to use the same quote Baxley does by Thomas Jefferson, "We are not afraid to truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." Allowing students to sue teachers for singling them out to make them explain an unfounded idea and learn the proper one, or allowing ideological extremists and courts to decide which parts of the worlds scientific knowledge are acceptable as truth, fails to combat error.

This bill is a horrendous idea, a shoddy attempt to impose political pressure on professors simply doing their job, and simple bad taste. I hope it goes down in flames as it should.

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