The Tennessee Senate approved a bill Monday that would encourage teachers and students to debate evolution in the classroom, setting aside complaints that the measure would drag the state back onto the battleground over the teaching of creationism.
Senators voted 24-8 to pass a bill that says schoolteachers cannot be punished for “helping students to understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories” taught in public schools.
The measure has drawn strong opposition from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Center for Science Education and the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it is cover for teachers who want to teach creationism or intelligent design. Supporters said the measure would give teachers more guidance to answer students’ questions about science topics.
“The idea behind this bill is that students should be encouraged to challenge current scientific thought and theory,” said state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.