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Promoting critical thinking in classroom

BY DONALD L. EWERT Published: March 7, 2012

Two bills before the Legislature, House Bill 1551 and Senate Bill 1742, aim to encourage science teachers to fully teach controversial scientific subjects by protecting them from retribution for doing so. Opponents claim the bills intend to promote the teaching of religion. But the intent of those who created these bills is to free the teaching of science from political influence, creating an environment where students understand the difference between facts and their interpretation, and the limits of scientific enquiry.

No academic field has been more abused by politicians, sociologists and commercial causes than science. The reason is simple: Science lends credence to an agenda because it's revered as the bastion of objectivity and truth.

History is replete with examples of science being abused to achieve political or social agendas. In the late 19th century, the progressive political agenda developed in the United States based on the view that natural selection implied governments are not founded on lasting principles, but must evolve as man evolves. In the early 20th century, Eugenics movements in Europe (Hitler's eradication of the disabled and Jews) and the U.S. (Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood) found similar “scientific” justification for the idea that humans (the state) must take responsibility for their own evolution.

In the 1930s, agriculturalist T.D. Lysenko was promoted within the Soviet Academy because his unproven ideas about improving crop yields supported Soviet ideas that the state could improve the human race and create utopia. More recently, a judge in the United Kingdom found that Al Gore's film “An Inconvenient Truth,” which was distributed to schools in the U.S. and U.K. promoting the theory that global warming is primarily caused by humans, was being used “to make a political statement and to support a political program.” The National Science Teachers Association noted “the political polarization of climate change education and the effect on their teaching.”

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