Text of the Santorum Amendment
Address to Congress
(Proceedings of the 107th Congress, first edition, June 13, 2001.)
Mr. President, I rise to talk about my amendment which will be voted on in roughly 40 minutes. This is an amendment that is a sense of the Senate. It is a sense of the Senate that deals with the subject of intellectual freedom with respect to the teaching of science in the classroom, in primary and secondary education. It is a sense of the Senate that does not try to dictate curriculum to anybody; quite the contrary, it says there should be freedom to discuss andair good scientific debate within the classroom. In fact, students will do better and will learn more if there is this intellectual freedom to discuss.
I will read this sense of the Senate. It is simply two sentences—frankly, two rather innocuous sentences—that hopefully this Senate will embrace:
"It is the sense of the Senate that—
- (1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and
- (2) where biological evolution is taught,the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.
It simply says there are disagreements in scientific theories out there that are continually tested. Our knowledge of science is not absolute, obviously. We continue to test theories. Over the centuries, there were theories that were once assumed to be true and have been proven, through further revelation of scientific investigation and testing, to be not true.
One of the things I thought was important in putting this forward was to make sure the Senate of this country, obviously one of the greatest, if not the greatest, deliberative bodies on the face of the Earth, was on record saying we are for this kind of intellectual freedom; we are for this kind of discussion going on; it will enhance the quality of science education for our students.
I will read three points made by one of the advocates of this thought, a man named David DeWolf, as to the advantages of teaching this controversy that exists. He says:
- Several benefits will accrue from a more open discussion of biological origins in the science classroom. First, this approach will do a better job of teaching the issue itself, both because it presents more accurate information about the state of scientific thinking and evidence, and because it presents the subject in a more lively and less dogmatic way. Second, this approach gives students greater appreciation for how science is actually practiced. Science necessarily involves the interpretation of data; yet scientists often disagree about how to interpret their data. By presenting this scientific controversy realistically, students will learn how to evaluate competing interpretations in light of evidence—a skill they will need as citizens, whether they choose careers in science or other fields. Third, this approach will model for students how to address differences of opinion through reasoned discussion within the context of a pluralistic society.
I think there are many benefits to this discussion that we hope to encourage in science classrooms across this country. I frankly don’t see any downside to this discussion—that we are standing here as the Senate in favor of intellectual freedom and open and fair discussion of using science—not philosophy and religion within the context, within the context of science but science—as the basis for this determination.
I will reserve the remainder of my time. I have a couple of other speakers I anticipate will come down and talk about this amendment, and I want to leave adequate time. I yield the floor.
Conference report excerpt
(Conference Report to accompany H.R. 1, No Child Left Behind Act of 2001)
The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.
Letter to the Disco 'Tute (2003)
September 10, 2003
Mr. Bruce Chapman
1511 Third Ave Suite 808
Seattle, WA 98101
Dear Mr Chapman:
In the Conference Report of the No Child Left Behind Act (2001), Congress adopted the following statement, commonly known as the "Santorum language":
- The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.
This statement was included in HR 107-334, which was approved by a vote of both houses of Congress in December 2001. It therefore represents the official view not only of the Conference Committee but of the United States Congress as a whole about how science instruction should proceed under the No Child Left Behind Act.
This statement originated as a resolution offered by Sen. Santorum during debate of the No Child Left Behind Act and was adopted in the Senate by a vote of 91-8. The Conference Committee then decided to add a revised version of the resolution to the Conference Report of the No Child Left Behind Act.
We understand that there is some confusion about the statement's history and meaning. It has been asserted that Congress rejected the original Santorum resolution by placing it in the report language of the No Child Left Behind Act rather than in the statutory language. That is not the case. The original resolution was always intended as guidance, not a mandate, and in fact was approved as a "Sense of the Senate." Thus, it was most appropriate to include as report language.
Report language provides official guidance from Congress on how statutory language should be enforced by other government agencies, and the Santorum language should be understood in this light. It is just as authoritative as other provisions in the report language of the Act, such as Congress's directive that "monitoring services... Not be limited to beginning teachers"; the determination that private schools and faith-based organizations "be included among the 'other organizations involved with the implementation and operation of programs under this title'"; and the detailed instructions given about how states should calculate and report graduation rates. In each of these examples, congress fully expected the guidance it provided in the report language to be followed, including, in this case, the Santorum language.
We further understand that a claim has been made that the revised version of the Santorum language was "watered down." The final wording was actually strengthened by adding a provision that "the curriculum should help students understand the full range of scientific views" on controversial topics such as biological evolution. The clause made explicit Congress's rejection of the idea that students only need to learn about the dominant scientific view of controversial topics.
The Santorum language clarifies that public school students are entitled to learn that there are differing scientific views on issues such as biological evolution. The No Child Left Behind Act calls for the enactment of state standards in the the field of science. It is important that the implementation of these science standards not be used to censor debate on controversial issues in science.
Rep. John A. Boehner, (R-OH)
Chair, House Committee on Education and the Workforce
Chairman, No Child Left Behind Act Conference Committee, 107th Congress
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Chair, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions
Member, No Child Left Behind Act Conference Committee, 107th Congress
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)
Author and sponsor of the Santorum language