Testimony of Representative Linda Reidelbach (R)
concerning
Ohio
House Bill 481 (2002) 

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  HOUSE BILL 481

House Education Committee

Testimony Representative Linda Reidelbach

March 5, 2002

Thank you, Chairman Callender and members of the Education Committee. I come before you today to offer House Bill 481, legislation that seeks to ensure that objectivity and academic rigor will take precedence in Ohio's classrooms regarding the discussion and investigation of the origins of the diversity of life on Earth.

As you are aware, the Ohio Department of Education is undertaking an effort to revise the science curriculum standards and indicators for all of Ohio's chartered public and non-public schools. These draft standards, as a result of our passage of Senate Bill 1 last year, will be the foundation for the development of the Ohio Graduation Test questions in the area of science.

Establishing high academic standards is an important part of ensuring that Ohio's students will receive the best education possible, preparing them for the challenges of adulthood. It is also important to ensure that students learn and understand the various viewpoints that compete in certain areas, especially in science. No area of academic investigation is more important, or more controversial, than the search for the explanation of the origin of life and its diversity.

House Bill 481 seeks to establish reasonable and prudent guidelines which will encourage schools and teachers to teach this subject matter objectively and comprehensively, in such a way that will promote effective science education, academic freedom, and neutrality in an area which touches upon both religious and non-religious beliefs.

The provisions of the bill would

(A) Encourage the presentation of scientific evidence regarding the origins of life and its diversity objectively, and without religious, naturalistic, or philosophic bias or assumption.

(B) Require that whenever explanations regarding the origins of life are presented, appropriate explanation and disclosure shall be provided regarding the historical nature of origins science and the use of any material assumption which may have provided a basis for the explanation being presented.

(C) Encourage the development of curriculum that will help students think critically, understand the full range of scientific views that exist regarding the origins of life, and understand why origins science may generate controversy.

Currently, the standards for Ohio's science curriculum require that students "discuss societal controversies that surround scientific issues" as well as to "trace the development (history, controversy, ramifications) of various theories, focusing on supporting evidence and modification with new evidence" and "examining the intellect, perspectives and ethics of notable scientists" as part of the overall indicators for science education. This seems to promote objective inquiry into scientific issues.  However, the proposed draft of changes in the indicators that the State Board of Education is currently reviewing sets a different, subjective standard. Those indicators include that students learn that "biological evolution is a change in gene frequency in a population over time" (is this microevolution or macroevolution?), that "natural selection and its evolutionary consequences provide a scientific explanation for the diversity and unity of all past life forms as depicted in the fossil record and present life forms" and to "know historical scientific developments  occurred in evolutionary thought (e.g. Darwin, Lamarck)".

This significant change in how Ohio students are taught science is detrimental to our efforts to establish high academic standards, encourage critical thinking and analytical skills, and to investigate all evidence regarding a controversial topic such as origins science. The theory of evolution, presented as established and unquestionable fact, is controversial, and denies the reality that many members of the scientific community question the dogmatic claims of adherents of evolutionary theory, on the scientific merits of those claims.

HB 481 would seek to keep the classroom academic, and to eliminate the possibility of scientific viewpoint discrimination. United States Senator Rick Santorum, whose amendment language was incorporated into the conference committee report on the "No Child Left Behind" education act, states it well. He says, "Teachers have a constitutional right to teach, and students to learn, about scientific controversies, so long as the discussion is about science, not religion or philosophy just because some think that contending scientific theories may have implications for religion or philosophy, that is no reason to ignore or trivialize the scientific issues embodied in those theories. After all, there are enormous religious and philosophical questions implied by much of what science does. Thus, it is entirely appropriate that the scientific evidence behind them is examined in science classrooms. Efforts to shut down scientific debates, as such, only serve to thwart the true purposes of education, science and the law. There is a question here of academic freedom, freedom to learn, as well as to teach..."

(Please see attachment for full statement.)

HB 481 was modeled on the language of the Santorum Amendment, which is now the guiding language for the implementation of HR1. As Senator Santorum states "By passing it we were showing our desire that students studying controversial issues in science, such as biological evolution, should be allowed to learn about competing scientific interpretations of evidence. As a result of our vote today that position is about to become a position of the Congress as a whole."

Not only Congress, but also the general public, believes that viewpoint discrimination and philosophical indoctrination have no place in the classroom. In a recent Zogby International Poll, 71 percent of Americans desire to have students learn the scientific arguments, both for and against, the theory of Darwinian evolution (poll is attached).

House Bill 481 is an effort to align Ohio's standards with the new federal law. Both reflect the will of the general population and further ensure that we are neither indoctrinating, nor being disingenuous to students by exposing them to only one part of a controversial subject.

Our Department of Education seeks high standards and academic excellence. That should always be our goal. HB 481 is vitally important to that effort. Thank you for your attention today. And, I hope that you will enjoy all of the testimony that will be forthcoming on this bill.

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