The Louisiana Science Education Act (download it here), passed and signed into law in 2008, is a thinly disguised attempt to foist creationism on the state’s public schools. It is, as usual, couched as an attempt to promote “critical thinking” in the sciences. The thing is, though, that the critical- thinking mandate concentrates on only a few areas—and you can guess which ones. From the bill (my emphasis):
B.(1) The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon request of a city, parish, or other local public school board, shall allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.
(2) Such assistance shall include support and guidance for teachers regarding effective ways to help students understand, analyze, critique, and objectively review scientific theories being studied, including those enumerated in Paragraph (1) of this Subsection.
C. A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board.
D. This Section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.
Yep, we don’t need more critical thinking in areas like physics, chemistry, or medicine—just human cloning, evolution, and global warming. This agenda is so clearly religious that the “disclaimer” in section D is laughable. Nevertheless, the Act passed both houses of the Louisiana legislature with near unanimous support, and has been used to support attempts to teach creationism in two of Louisiana’s parishes.
There is an effort underway to repeal this bill, in the form of Senate Bill 70 (pdf at the link). The effort has been spearheaded by a high school student, Baton Rouge Magnet School senior Zachary Kopplin, an impressive and courageous young man. There are already many statements supporting repeal of the LSEA on Zack’s site, including one signed by 42 Nobel Laureates. With Kopplin’s help, and the support of many others (especially biologist Rick Miller of Southeastern Louisiana University), the heads of the major evolution societies in America have put together a letter. Zachary will be conveying it to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Louisiana legislatures this morning.
2 May 2011
Dear Governor Jindal,
We urge you to support the effort to repeal the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act. This act is one example of the so-called “Academic Freedom” bills, a misleading title for what are widely recognized as Intelligent Design (ID) creationist initiatives. The bill has opened the door to teaching creationist arguments against evolution – arguments that are wholly unscientific – as part of the science curriculum.
There are no credible “arguments against evolution” that undermine the wealth of empirical evidence that supports evolutionary science. It is telling that we do not see similar arguments for teaching “critical evidence” against chemistry or physics. It is evolution that is the unique object of these bills, and that shows they are motivated not by a desire to teach good science but rather to further creationism in Louisiana schools.
The research that the members of the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Society of Systematic Biologists, and thousands of other biologists do broadens and deepens our understanding of the evolutionary forces that have shaped and continue to shape the biological world. The practical benefits of evolutionary science are felt every day in agriculture, fisheries, industry and medicine.
Our country is a world leader in scientific achievement. The achievements of biology in particular rest on the unifying theory of biology – evolution. We must provide a rigorous science curriculum so our children will be well prepared for the future, achieving the scientific goals for their generation and providing a scientifically literate work force to sustain and attract leading businesses. The children and the future of Louisiana will be poorly served by the kind of a sub-standard education that is the inevitable consequence of these “academic freedom” bills.
Because the 2008 Science Education Act undermines the education of Louisiana’s children, it must be repealed.
Please support the repeal of the 2008 Louisiana Science Education and stand behind Zack Kopplin and the other children of Louisiana who deserve the best science education possible.
Jerry Coyne, President, Society for the Study of Evolution
Scott V. Edwards, President Elect, Society for the Study of Evolution
Thomas Meagher, Chair, SSE Education Committee
David Mindell, President, Society of Systematic Biologists
Robert E. Ricklefs, President, American Society of Naturalists
I ask your support for repealing this nefarious and pro-creationist act. There is a website where you can email your thoughts to the governor. Select “education” for the topic, and “out of state” for the parish unless you are from Louisiana—and if you are, it’s especially important to weigh in. If you wish, you can simply cut and paste the content of our letter above.
Given Louisiana politics and Jindal’s signature on the earlier bill, I’m not optimistic that our actions, and those of all the other people who written letters and emails, will have any effect; but it’s worth a try. I don’t often ask readers to do things (except submit pictures of their cats), but we need to support Zack’s effort to keep religiously-based views out of public school science classes in Louisiana.