TN Senate approves evolution in schools bill - WSMV News 4

TN Senate approves evolution in schools bill

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There is a fight over what should and shouldn't be taught in Tennessee classrooms, and two highly controversial subjects are at the center of it all - evolution and climate change.

Supporters of a Senate bill say it is about having critical thinking in science, while opponents say the bill would introduce creationism into classrooms.

Tennessee was once at the center of the evolution debate, and some fear that state lawmakers are trying to put school classrooms in the middle again.

"Tennessee might once again be the laughingstock of the country when they look and see what we dealing with," said Hedy Weinberg, with the ACLU. "We are calling this bill Scopes revisited."

Last year, the state House passed a bill that would allow science teachers to foster criticism of evolution and climate change in the classroom.

But, the Senate sponsor delayed a vote after criticism that the bill would bring creationism into science.

"Certain scientific theories create debate and dispute, and teachers should understand how they are supposed to respond to these disputes and how to respond in a way that keeps them within the framework of the state's curriculum," said State Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.

The bill, which passed a vote Monday in the Senate 24-8, included changes that supporters believe allow for critical thinking.

"Business and industry want students that are critical thinkers. I can think of no other classroom where critical thinking skills are exercised more than in the science classroom," Watson said.

But, many science groups aren't satisfied. Eight top Tennessee scientists, including a Nobel laureate, have come out against the bill, saying it hurts Tennessee students.

And opponents aren't buying the claims that this has nothing to do with evolution.

"It appears very clearly that the focus is to allow public school teachers to create a conversation in the science classroom that will allow students to discuss creationism and intelligent design," Weinberg said.

Now that the bill has passed the Senate, it has to go back to the House before going to the governor's desk because of some Senate amendments.

Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he doesn't know much about the bill but added these types of decisions are usually best left to the state board of education.

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