Tennessee has become the second state (after Louisiana) to pass a law protecting teachers who explore the "scientific strengths and and scientific weaknesses" of evolution and climate change.
The law's language is entirely couched in the language of defense: it "protects teachers when they promote critical thinking and objective discussion about controversial science issues such as biological evolution, climate change and human cloning," according to the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, an ironically-named organization that advocates for intelligent design.
The bill flew through the state legislature as if on the wings of some kind of perfectly-designed-and-not-at-all-evolved bird, and Governor Bill Haslam allowed it to become law without his signature. Oddly, he added "I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum. I also don't believe that it accomplishes anything."
Now, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that requiring creationism to be taught in public schools is unconstitutional, which is why the Tennessee law maintains that a student has to bring up any alternative theories before teachers are allowed to discuss them.
It's actually a rather crafty move — instead of pushing creationism and, uh, climate non-change, Tennessee is attempting to tear down evolution and climate change through "critical thinking," which prior to this law, was shorthand for witchcraft in much of the South. They's using the tools of the book-learners against 'em! Take that, readers!
Jokes aside, the law is fiendishly clever in its construction — it seems relatively innocent ("We're just trying to promote analysis!") at first. But whether or not the teachers are the ones bringing up creationism will be nearly impossible to police, of course, and I think it's pretty safe to assume that the only "alternative theories" being brought forth for discussion will be Christian ones. (It's not as if "turtles all the way down" is a popular theology in the South.) But it is interesting to think that the Tennessee teachers union opposed the law — apparently they're not as eager to teach Creationism as we in the lamestream-elitist-New York-intellectual media would have you believe.