Louisiana Votes to Screw Over Science Education May 26, 2011

Louisiana Votes to Screw Over Science Education

After everything 17-year-old Zack Kopplin did to get the wrongly-named “Louisiana Science Education Act” repealed, lawmakers sided against him. Temporarily, anyway.

Currently, the law allows public school science teachers in the state to “supplement” state-approved textbooks with their own materials — including unscientific texts that support Creationism/Intelligent Design.

Zack and others were trying to put a stop to that. 43 Nobel Laureates wanted LSEA repealed. Several national science organizations agreed. Even the New Orleans City Council Council unanimously endorsed the repeal bill.

But the Senate Education Committee didn’t care. They voted 5-1 to defer SB 70 (the “Repeal LSEA” bill).

Senators sided with the governor and Christian conservatives who argued the law was designed to promote critical thinking, strengthen education and help teachers who are confused about what’s acceptable for science classes.

“The lawmakers of Louisiana are a laughing stock as far as the scientific community is concerned,” Harold Kroto, a Florida State University scientist who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1996, said in an email to The Associated Press. He added, “The present situation should be likened to requiring Louisiana school texts to include the claim that the Sun goes round the Earth.”

“All of you have been able to get out of high school despite this ‘terrible’ law,” state Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie said in comments directed at students in the audience who backed the repeal effort.

They may have “gotten out of high school” but they’re not going to be prepared for college if LSEA continues. They can thank Sen. Quinn for that.

This is the kind of legislation that Creationists love — it allows them to present their Biblical bullshit under the guise of proper science. Barbara Forrest points out that the supporters of this legislation were no fans of science education:

This law was promoted only by creationists. Neither parents, nor science teachers, nor scientists requested it. No one wanted it except the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a religious organization that lobbies aggressively for its regressive agenda, and the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank in Seattle, Washington, that couldn’t care less about Louisiana children.

Even Governor Bobby Jindal supported it, showing that he doesn’t give a damn about how students are educated in his state.

Zack is a high school student at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, and it’s obvious that he knows far more about science than any of the legislators voting against it. At least he’ll be able to graduate with his head held high.

But I feel bad for other Louisiana students who are about to be subject to one hell of a lot of faulty science, courtesy of all the misguided educators who care more about the Bible than the subject they teach.

***Edit***: The State Senate voted to defer the “Repeal LSEA” bill — they haven’t shot it down outright. Yet. This is still a problem, of course, because they can just vote against the bill somewhere down the road, but I’ve edited the post a bit to reflect the deferral.

Incidentally, Zack Kopplin says he sees the deferral as a “victory.” I’m not so sure about that.

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  • Rich Wilson

    local TV coverage
    I’m surprised they called LSEA for what it is, “allows creationism to be taught as science”

  • Julie

    According to this article from the NCSE (http://tinyurl.com/424842u), the bill was actually deferred, not denied. I’ve seen articles stating both. Of course, the bill to repeal the stupid act is what they need to do. Just horrifying. Louisiana is full of embarrassing stories this week (like the Bastrop HS story…).

  • The fundamental evil is public education. People have the right to choose the education for their own children, no matter it’s scientific or not.

    Taking control of the political system, this is not a battle field for science, or religion.

  • This is why I hate living in Louisiana sometimes.

  • @Julie — I’ve edited the article to make that more clear. Thanks!

  • TheRealistMom/Spamamander

    Really, Jflycn?

    What other things shouldn’t be public? The building of roads? (We should all get to decide where we go!) Medical care? (The state shouldn’t get to decide who is a doctor or not! And I shouldn’t HAVE to take my child to the doctor if I believe in magic!)

    The point of government in part is to care for those citizens who cannot do so for themselves (ie, children) by ensuring they are taken care of and, yes, educated.

    So should a parent be permitted to teach, I don’t know, that murder is fine and dandy, because we don’t have the ‘right’ to interfere?

  • @TheRealistMom/Spamamander
    Heaven does not exist.

  • Chakolate

    Isn’t this the one where teachers are protected from being fired if they preach their own beliefs during class?

    Don’t they realize what they’re letting themselves in for? Idiots – even Christian parents might object to hellfire and damnation preaching in science class. And what will they do when a Hindu tells them the Hindu version of creation?

  • Larry Meredith

    Even the New Orleans City Council Council unanimously endorsed the repeal bill.

    there’s no better council then a council council.

  • Brit

    I know how to get this law overturned in less than a year. Next school year, have a teacher start preaching atheism to the students. Have her site the facts about how religion has been the biggest hindrance to medicine, science, education, peace, and all the other good things in the world. Use the fact that the black plague was largely caused by the killing of cats because christians feared them. Point out to students that atheists commit the fewest number of crimes. If this extends to the social sciences, like anthropology and history, one of those teachers should bring in Marx and have the children study his writings with particular focus on that “opiate of the masses” thing. You can bet if a few teachers did this, then hid behind the LSEA law to keep their jobs, that law would be ripped off the books overnight.

    So, any atheist teachers in Louisiana willing to take this law on? Anyone want to push it to its limits?

  • Jay Holland

    If we are going to teach biblical creationism in the science classes. Why stop there? Let’s teach the biblical “demon possession” theory in medical school as an alternative treatment for epilepsy, pi as 3.0 in Geometry, the terracentric model of the universe in Astronomy, the flat earth in Geography, unicorns in Zoology, and the role and proper beating guidelines for slaves in Humanities.

  • Rich Wilson

    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.

    The “S” stands for “Science” so any hypothetical teacher who wanted to turn this around would have to do it in a science class.

    I have no idea what the scientific theory of human cloning is. Maybe that cloned humans will lack a soul and be zombies? Or worse, liberals? But until we’ve done some testing, I would think that remains a hypothesis, not a theory.

    I’d be inclined to have them critique Neil deGrasse Tyson’s very excellent Perimiter of Ignorance

  • John W

    This is a perfect example of what will happen more and more if religious zealots get political control. There will be brainwashed kids actually believing they have sat in a science class when in reality it was just religious propaganda.
    Louisiana it appears is intent on keeping it’s reputation for ignorance and stupidity thanks to people like Governor Jindal.

  • If a bunch of college presidents (from big-name universities that have no problem filling each freshman class) signed a letter that they look at Louisiana high-school graduates with some suspicion because of their scientific education, that might get some attention.

    The politicians who are currently “testing the waters” in deciding on how to vote on the repeal might decide they don’t want to relegate Louisiana children to second-tier universities. Or maybe they don’t care.

  • Brian

    I can’t be worried that the children of southern ‘tards will grow up to be ‘tards themselves. They can flip my kids’ and grandkids’ burgers. They can be a burden on the ‘tards that raised ’em.
    “Experience keeps a hard school,but a fool will learn in no other.”

  • In the comments to that last news story Hemant linked to, I saw a name I thought I recognized: Lee Bowman. He claimed to have no bias for or against ID… which made me realize where I knew him from. Lee Bowman is a (supposedly) non-religious ID proponent. I kindly revealed his lie 🙂

  • Cortex

    Would these teachers be allowed to use, say, The God Delusion as a supplement?

  • Spencer

    Nice trolling.

  • TheRealistMom/Spamamander

    Yes, I should know better than to respond to a troll, I’ll use the excuse of late night and a couple of hefeweizens last evening. Surely there aren’t people who are really THAT big of assholes as to believe that children are “property” of their parents to the point that said parents should be given absolute free rein to do ANYTHING to them because of some weird divine (heh) right given by birthing them. I mean, the logical endpoint for that kind of thinking is that I should be able to physically abuse or even murder my children because they are “mine” and I just KNOW the trollboy in the wannabe 4chan avatar wouldn’t be advocating that.

  • Rich Wilson

    @Cortex I think The Greatest Show on Earth would be a fantastic supplementary text.

    As for GD, the act says

    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

  • objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.

    What is going on here is a confusion between an ethical issue (is it ethical to clone people) and statements about objective reality (is evolution real? Is global warming occurring?). This demonstrates a basic failing, the sponsors of the bill seem to think that a theory as ideologically or morally problematic is a reason to think that reality doesn’t work that way.

  • Daniel

    Hey, sounds like my English credential now qualifies me to teach science in Louisiana.

    I’d just cover all the creation stories of the world. There are ~180 school days; I think I can find that many creation stories, though many will take more than a day to read.

    We can compare how the Greek creation story viewed knowledge as a positive trait for which a price must be paid (Prometheus), while the Judeo-Christian story makes it clear that obtaining knowledge is a negative trait that should be punished for generations.

    Of course, I’d need a real science teacher to come in on the day we covered what actually happened.

  • Annie

    As a science educator, I think I must be missing something, as I’m very confused. Other than the misuse of the word theory in the present law, I’m not sure how this affects the science classroom. All science teachers I know use supplemental material in their classrooms (power points, videos, reference books, etc.). Science teachers are measured by their ability to teach the standards laid out by state’s BOE. I would think if there was concern about teaching “the controversy”, the BOE could nip it in the bud by adjusting their standards, if need be. Regardless of whether or not a teacher utilizes supplemental sources, it is still, by my understanding, unlawful to teach intelligent design, as it is a faith-based idea and nothing more.

    I don’t use text books, as I teach K-5 science (at a nonsectarian private school) and most text books for this age are simply practices in reading comprehension and do little to teach science process skills.

  • theskepticalape

    This push by the religious right wing will not stop until we organize and push back against their lunacy or we’re back living in Dark Age superstition. This whole situation is tragic, but it is very encouraging that at least some people still in schools there are trying to raise awareness of the problems this law poses to the educations of Louisiana’s students. The only thing that will stop these fundamentalist sheeple is a concerted effort on the part of sane and rational people. It’s not just a court battle, this is a matter of educating people whenever and wherever we can about the reality of the universe we find ourselves in. If anyone is interested, I started a Facebook group for like-minded people to talk and organize for what we can do to stop this law.

    The name is: Repeal the Louisiana “Science Education” Act

    No Gods, No Masters

  • Thanks for all the great posts Friendly Atheist.

    Zack Kopplin is one great kid! Here’s hoping he runs the schools in LA!

    Tex Shelters

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