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Science... sort of

May 13, 2012

This short special edition is a recording of the speech I gave to a group at a rally on April 14, 2012 opposing HB0386 and supporting good science education in TN. My open letter to the governor is available here, and the following is a transcript of my speech:

My name is Ryan Haupt, I'm a graduate student at Vanderbilt University. I came to Nashville specifically to study how species evolve in response to climate change, so this bill hits very close to home. I was raised in a state where evolution and other "controversial topics" were not taught in schools, but in my home I was taught to question everything, so by actively taking courses that challenged me in college, I was able to learn about evolution and its role in the natural world. This knowledge inflamed a passion that has driven me to dedicate my life to the study of science, and the exploration of the natural world through the scientific method.

However, my story is likely the exception, not the rule. I should not have had to wait until college to be taught about the basic fundamental principles of biology. My story is a story of luck, and students in Tennessee should not have to rely on luck to get a good education.

Furthermore, allowing special interests to push forward legislation that singles out particular politically-charged theories does nothing but damage the educational reputation of our state. Just the other week Governor Haslam announced funding for new schools designed specifically to promote science and technology education, but with him allowing this bill to become law he might as well give back the money because what good are schools designed to promote science when teachers are going to be encouraged to teach inaccurate science?

The bill claims to be one of academic freedom.  However, academic freedom should not include the freedom to teach falsehoods to students, and enough freedom already exists to allow the teaching of the most up to date and accurate science.

The thing that most angers people of my generation is that laws like this are enacted by people much older than me and my peers. Climate change is a real problem; a problem created unknowingly by our ancestors, but now willfully ignored by our elders, only for my peers and my descendants to suffer. Legislation that undermines those younger than me from having a complete understanding of climate change creates a legacy of ignorance that threatens efforts to actually confront and deal with forthcoming problems. This is the exact opposite of what legislation should be doing. It is the exact opposite of what the majority of my generation thinks they should be doing. I am reminded of a Greek proverb, "A society flourishes when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in."

All this bill does is grant license to those who would salt the Earth rather than plant a tree. It presents a Trojan horse of academic freedom but actually carries troops of disinformation and political propaganda, neither of which belongs in a science classroom. I have been opposing this bill for over a year because I believe it is at best unnecessary and at worst a detriment to the education of young people inTennessee. I think the best thing we can do now is let our teachers know that we support them teaching sound science and that they don't need to "teach the controversy."  Instead, we want the next generation to be a best prepared as possible and that means sound science education. Thank you.