Senator Jeff Monroe (R-24/Pierre) doesn't care about my economic liberty, but he sure cares about my academic liberty. He's so worried that I won't have the freedom in my classroom to promote critical thinking, scientific inquiry, and respectful discussion of differences of opinion that he's proposed Senate Bill 114, "to encourage and protect the teaching of certain scientific information."

When Republicans like Jeff Monroe presume to tell teachers like me how to conduct respectful and intelligent debate, you know something fishy is going on.

SB 114 is really a sneaky retread of Senator Monroe's attempt last year to write intelligent design and other bushwah (yeah, bushwah, as in, not opinion, not scientific theory, but superstition and falsehood masquerading as real science) into K-12 curriculum across South Dakota.

To make sure there is no misundertanding, let's review the text of Senator Monroe's bill in full. SB 114 creates a completely new section under our education statutes in SDCL Chapter 13-1:

Section 1. That chapter 13-1 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:

The South Dakota Board of Education, local school boards, and all school administrators shall:

  1. Endeavor to create an environment within all 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 taught in curriculum and coursework that is aligned to the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48; and
  2. Assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific subjects such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, human cloning, and other scientific subjects that may cause debate and disputation.

In addition, neither the Board of Education, nor any local school board, or school administrator may prohibit any teacher from helping students understand, analyze, critique, or review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the courses being taught that are aligned with the content standards established pursuant to § 13-3-48.

Section 2. The provisions of this Act only protect the teaching of scientific information and may not be construed to promote any religious or nonreligious doctrine, to promote discrimination for or against any particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, or to promote discrimination for or against any religion or nonreligion.

Section 3. By no later than the start of the 2015-2016 school year, the secretary of education shall notify all school administrators of the provisions of this Act, and the school administrators within each school district shall notify all teachers within that school district of the provisions of this Act [Senate Bill 114, original text, filed 2015.01.27].

Section 1 is absolutely unnecessary. The Board of Education, local school boards, and school administrators already provide teachers with tools and help to find the resources enumerated. We already have all the tools we need to tell Monroe's little minions why intelligent design is as imaginary as unicorns.

Section 2 is absolutely unnecessary. Scientific information is already made freely available in our K-12 curricula... except when conservatives like Senator Monroe try to block the teaching of honest information about birth control. Plus, we already have the First Amendment to prevent proselytizing in the classroom.

Section 3 is unnecessary grandstanding. Do we not assume that teachers are aware of all relevant statutes to their profession? Why should we read them just Jeff Monroe's pretty statute? Why not set aside a whole day of in-service before school starts to have Senator Monroe and legislators in every district come to their schools to recite chapter and verse the entirety of Title 13?

Senator Monroe proposes a hoghouse vehicle for an unnecessary intelligent design debate. Meanwhile, he ignores the fact that the low teacher pay his legislative negligence facilitates is leaving us with fewer and fewer teachers who can explain science, fact, and logic to students. Maybe that's been his "intelligent design" all along.