UPDATE: Statement from the National Center for Science Education:
Otherwise a typical instance of the "academic freedom" strategy for undermining the integrity of science education, HB 13-1089 was unusual in targeting higher education as well as K-12 education. The primary sponsors of HB 13-1089 were Stephen Humphrey (R-District 48) in the House and Scott Renfroe (R-District 13) in the Senate — in Colorado, bills in either house of the legislature will have a sponsor in the other house. Among those testifying for the bill was a representative of the Discovery Institute, who claimed that his organization helped to draft the bill. Among those testifying against the bill were representatives of the Colorado Association of School Boards, the Colorado Education Association, and the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education.
"One down, seven to go," commented NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, alluding to the seven bills still active — Arizona's Senate Bill 1213, Indiana's House Bill 1283, Missouri's House Bill 179 and House Bill 291, Montana's House Bill 183, and Oklahoma's Senate Bill 758 and House Bill 1674 — that would undermine the teaching of evolution and climate change in the public schools. (A further bill, Texas's House Bill 285, which would protect faculty and students in higher education from persecution over their acceptance of "intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms," is also still active.) "But this victory in Colorado was too close," Scott added. "People in Colorado and elsewhere need to understand that these bills would be nothing but trouble: scientifically misleading, pedagogically unnecessary, and likely to produce administrative, legal, and economic headaches."
Here's a fascinating clip of audio from yesterday's hearing in the Colorado House Education Committee on House Bill 13-1089–the bill from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to "foster a culture of tolerance," according to sponsor Rep. Steve Humphrey, for students whose views on certain matters of science may be "out of the mainstream" on such matters as evolution and climate change. The bill was killed yesterday in the House Ed Committee, but not before this memorable exchange between GOP Rep. Chris Holbert and Katie Navin, Executive Director of the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education:
Can't see the audio player? Click here.
HOLBERT: Thank you, Madam Chair. Ms. Nevin, I wonder if you could describe any efforts by your group or others around the state to empower, encourage, enable, teachers and students to, especially in the high school environment, to, um, to discount what I believe to be the myth of climate change and global warming. [Pols emphasis] You referred to that as a "theory," so if that, if that is a theory, um, I hope that we are again encouraging and empowering to take a position where they could just absolutely attack that as nonsense.
NAVIN: Um, I think that (Oh, thank you), I think there's general, the general populace uses the word "theory" differently than it is used in science. And so a theory is pretty much as close to fact as you can get. Gravity is a theory in science, but you know we all drop something and I'm pretty sure it's going to hit the ground. So really, I think the language of the bill lacks clarity in describing what a theory is, in terms of discussing the strengths and weaknesses towards it. Did that answer the question?
CHAIR: Representative Holbert, do you want to ask, uh, the question differently?
HOLBERT: Does your, does your group do anything to encourage, communicate to students, uh, in K through 12 or higher ed, um, the, the, uh, to oppose, to encourage them to speak out and oppose things, because it's my impression that, that my sons are being taught one side of that. That it is, in fact "fact," and, and it's not.
It's not the first time we've felt honest-to-God sympathy for a witness in a legislative hearing, but seriously, folks. Any person with a background in academia subjected to this kind of painfully lowbrow questioning, but still retaining their professional obligation to not let the questioner know he is a blathering idiot, is deserving of your sympathy.
You might even come to the conclusion that a person with these kinds of…misconceptions about education and science has no business on the House Education Committee to begin with, but but parties get to make their selections for committees. In this case, much like having Rep. Janak "Dr. Nick" Joshi fronting health care bills, it's safe to say Republicans are not putting their best foot forward in Rep. Chris Holbert.