Ohio House passes bill allowing student answers to be scientifically wrong

If passed, Ohio students get to the opportunity to write, “Mind” as the answer to test questions in chemistry, biology, physics and other science classes…

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Let me pretend that I am teaching a science class in an Ohio school.

In an exam, I ask a question that relates to the age of the earth.

A student replies “the earth is 6,000 years old”.

That looks like a religious answer to me. So I cannot punish the student for that answer. But I also cannot reward the student for that answer (as I understand the legislation). So it seems to me that my best response is to treat it as if the student had chosen to not answer that question. That way, I am neither punishing nor rewarding the answer.

As a teacher, I would have made it clear to my students that exam questions were asking about the scientific consensus, not about their personal beliefs.

Suppose a student answered “According to science, the earth is around 4 billion years old, but I personally believe that it is only 6000 years old.” I would give that student credit for the answer, and ignore the part about personal belief.

This is actually, how I would have handled the situation anyway, without that Ohio legislation. So I don’t really see the legislation as changing anything. It is just politicians making a political statement in legislation that won’t really do anything.

I’m inclined to think that some reactions are a tad overplayed.


I think the OP post misrepresents the law. Looking over the changes, it does not seem to allow this. Let’s look at the example of the age of the earth. As @nwrickert explains:

How old is the age of the earth?

A student could answer:

The mainstream scientific consensus is that the earth is (approx) 4.5 billion years. But I believe it is 6,000 years old.

It seems the intent of the law is to allow an answer like this, and ensure that the student is graded correctly on this response. I see no problem with allowing this, as it already happens any ways. Because it happens already, I’m not sure why the law is needed, except if I consider cases where this may not be the case, and the student is penalized (wrongly) for this answer.

Science doesn’t care what our personal beliefs are. If a student can articulate accurately the mainstream consensus they should not be penalized for also articulating their personal beliefs, especially if they feel ethically compelled to disclose their personal beliefs at variance with the consensus.


My cynicism is hinting that the law isn’t for pupils at all, but to allow teachers who present creation/ID/evaluation/objective/freedom to mark their students’ answers as correct.

My imagination is seeing students writing things like ‘blacks are inferior because God cursed the nephites’ or ‘my pastor says Jews are notorious liars’ or ‘God favours the Aryan race above all others’ or ‘atheists should be exiled from America’ with no consequences being permitted


Lets try:

In an exam, I ask what the area of a circle with a radius of 1 cm is.

A student replies “3 square centimeters”.

Do you mark this wrong? Or just toss the question out, on the off chance that the student thinks this is an appropriate answer given what the Bible has to say (or implies) on the matter? Or do you mark the answer wrong, and suffer the possible appeal(s) that may follow? How can one even begin to teach math, given these possibilities?


Wrong. Regardless of the students religious beliefs we weren’t asking him about his beliefs.


Mostly, it’s catering to the fears of their political base (e.g. The Rod Drehers of the world).

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My turn.

In an exam, I ask for the largest planet in the solar system. A student replies “Kolob”.

In an exam, I ask what the largest flying creature is. A student replies “Mohammed’s magical steed Al-buraq”.

In an exam, I ask how hail forms. A student replies “God creates it and keeps it in storehouses”.

In an exam, I ask about blood transfusions. A student replies “An abomination that all true Christians refuse”.

In an exam, I ask about pre-Colombian settlement of North America. A student replies "America was colonised by middle Eastern peoples who travelled across the Atlantic in a sealed box.”.

In an exam, I ask what the treatment for leprosy is. A student replies “Application of pigeon blood and three days of prayer and fasting”

In an exam, I ask what causes the moon to orbit Earth. A student replies “Luminous aether”.

In an exam, I ask when and where the first atomic bomb was dropped. A student replies “On a supervolcano millions of years ago”.

Now what?


Why doesn’t PS recommend publicly on Facebook that this bill should be vetoed by the governor?

All wrong.

They were asked to repeat what they learned in class and did not. Had they explained the consensus position, expressing their personal view as such alongside it, they should be judged by their representation of the consensus position, even if they feel they must present their personal beliefs alongside it.


Maybe. Need to learn more.

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I do not see that the bill overrides requiring that the student displays mastery of the material.

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I mark it wrong. And I doubt that any court will interfere with that.

I could toss out the answer. But then I would have to treat the student as if he had not attempted to answer the question. And that’s about the same as marking it wrong.

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That’s possible. But (expressing my own cynicism) there are probably teachers doing that already, without the need for a special law.

I think the money quote is (from lines 424-428):

“Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.”

This sentence opens a veritable Pandora’s Box, IMO. If the wording is not changed, it may well lead to all sorts of quibbles and controversies that might arise when the “religious content of a student’s work” contradicts “legitimate pedagogical concerns”. I suspect that this sentence was slipped in to allow students to present religious content in creative endeavors (write an essay about the Bible, have artistic presentations that are overtly religious, etc.), without thinking much about how the wording would apply to other subjects.


I do agree that it could be implemented in an absurd way. If it was implemented in an absurd way, they will be calling down lawsuits and objections everywhere down upon themselves.

If it is implemented how I explained it should be implemented, it seems like this is not worth worrying much about.


Wait a minute. get this right. Already “religious” conclusions in science, like creationism are banned. SAID to be wrong. This bill simply says religious conclusions are not wrong though not right.
its a reaction to allow religious expression as a students right and in the students perceptions of what is true. in short religious stuff can not be said to be wrong just that easy.
Thy started it. they first introduced state censorship about conclusions, in many subjects, and this has provoked this reply. Why are they complaining? I think its because they want a monopoly on truth. Seems that way from Canada where this is accepted practice.

No, they are not banned. They are rejected, because the evidence does not support them.