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Louisiana School Passes Creationist Policy

The Central Community School Board in Louisiana has adopted a new policy that will allow, and even encourage, teachers to use creationist materials in science classrooms — under the guise of “academic freedom” to “teach the controversy,” of course.

The Central Community School Board approved a policy Monday that supports its science teachers if they decide to wade into scientific controversies, including teaching students about alternatives to the theory of evolution.

“We believe this resolution will give teachers the academic freedom they deserve to teach the controversy where appropriate,” said Board member Jim Lloyd, who made the motion to approve the new policy.

Barbara Forrest, a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science and a philosophy professor who has written about clashes between religion and science, said the new policy is unnecessary and includes telling phrases such as a call to teach the “strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”

“It’s absolutely creationist code language that we’ve seen come up again and again in other states,” Forrest said.

Of course it is. Anyone who has been paying attention to the strategies of the creationists for the last few decades knows that. This is what I discussed in a talk I gave a few years ago (see it on Youtube) as phase four of the anti-evolution movement. Phase one was to ban the teaching of evolution (struck down by the courts in Epperson v Arkansas). Phase two was to demand equal time for the teaching of “creation science” along with evolution (struck down in Edwards v Aguillard). Phase three was to change “creation science” to “intelligent design” and demand that this be taught along with evolution (struck down in Kitzmiller v Dover).

So now we have phase four, which uses liberal-sounding phrases like “academic freedom,” “teach the controversy,” “critical thinking about evolution,” “teaching the strengths and weaknesses about evolution” and so forth. But just as intelligent design was just a semantic restatement of creation science, these are just new forms of intelligent design. When they say they want the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution taught, what they mean is that they want to teach the arguments against evolution found in the ID literature.

The Louisiana legislature sent an engraved invitation to local school boards to do this; it’s what we have been calling for the last few years the “Dover trap.” And it will inevitably lead to an expensive loss in court.

Comments

  1. says

    Why does it make me think that the only “controversey” to be taught, thus affording them an opportunity to “think critically” abut the “strengths and weaknesses” of (IT’S ONLY A THEORY!!) evolution will be the notscience shit attributed to the ONE TRUE GOD, “Yahweh or the highway”.

  2. Sastra says

    If they think public school students ought to be exposed to public “controversies” as part of a well-rounded education, then maybe theyy ought to have courses on Comparative Religion. And make sure that th students are notjust exposed to information about different religions, but to their apologetics, too. We can even add atheism into the mix, along with critical thinking skills and a load of philosophy. Let’s give them all the tools they need to make up their own minds!

    No? Then shaddup about “controversies.” Evolution is not a scientific controversy and you have no real inclination to seriously get into the religious kinds.

  3. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    When [creationists] say they want the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution taught, what they mean is that they want to teach the arguments against evolution found in the ID literature.

    What creationists also mean is that they won’t be sufficiently teaching evolution, like providing the convincing evidence for common descent that falsifies nearly all creationists’ beliefs. This harm is inflicted on tens of millions of U.S. public school students and obviously, those who go to conservative Christian private schools or are home-schooled by their conservative Christian parents.

    I’ve yet to encounter a credible argument this denial of a proper education is not child abuse, it’s perhaps the most insidious form of child abuse. A form that goes essentially ignored.

  4. d cwilson says

    “We believe this resolution will give teachers the academic freedom they deserve to teach the controversy where appropriate,”

    But first we have to invent one.

    Well, I hope the residents of this school district like paying taxes, because this is going to cost them to fight a losing battle.

  5. vmanis1 says

    I’m all for academic freedom, but I’m curious. Does this district endorse the creation of Gay/Straight Alliances in its schools, so that one might `teach the controversy’ or `apply critical thinking to the problem’?

    Just asking.

  6. Ex Patriot says

    the only thought I can leave on this is that the Louisina School system just went back before the stone age. I pity the students who are being dumbed down by idiots.

  7. tomh says

    Well, I hope the residents of this school district like paying taxes, because this is going to cost them to fight a losing battle.

    That’s optimistic. It was inevitable that something like this would come up, once the Louisiana law was passed, but to think the courts will automatically overturn the law is wishful thinking. Sooner or later there will be a case, either this one or one like it, that will eventually get to the Supreme Court, where there is a very good chance the law will be upheld. That will encourage other states to pass similar laws and such teachings will spread and grow. People are far too confidant about the future of biology teaching in public schools.

  8. raven says

    THis, the voucher crap. Louisiana just isn’t working out.

    Is it too late to ask France for a refund?

    It’s a National Sacrifice Area.

    They live on land occasionally under water from floods and hurricanes and wreck their environment to provide us with oil and gas. You should be grateful.

    The projections for Louisiana near the gulf coast aren’t good.

    1. The land is sinking.

    2. The oceans are rising.

    It’s all near sea level except the parts already below sea level.

    What could go wrong here? Some projections have much of that area under water by 2100.

    And BTW, did you know global warming is a hoax thought up by rich scientists to buy expensive SUV’s and sports cars?

  9. raven says

    That’s optimistic. It was inevitable that something like this would come up, once the Louisiana law was passed, but to think the courts will automatically overturn the law is wishful thinking.

    It could happen.

    You need to know this though. If we are going to start losing in court, we need to find that out ASAP.

    What that means is that the last superpower with 314 million people just decided to do the lemming thing and run over a cliff.

    If and when that happens, all you can do is deal with the aftermath. And you will deal with it because you have no choice.

    Toynbee pointed out that of 22 civilizations that fell, 19 died from within. There has never been a civilization that lasted. We are going out someday as well. It’s inevitable.

  10. d cwilson says

    That’s optimistic. It was inevitable that something like this would come up, once the Louisiana law was passed, but to think the courts will automatically overturn the law is wishful thinking. Sooner or later there will be a case, either this one or one like it, that will eventually get to the Supreme Court, where there is a very good chance the law will be upheld.

    It would be a tough battle. Creationists couldn’t win with a religious, conservative judge appointed by Bush. Maybe Louisiana judges might be more sympathetic, but precedent on efforts to sneak creationism into the classroom is against them. They’ll have to put on a much stronger case than they did in Dover.

  11. tomh says

    They’ll have to put on a much stronger case than they did in Dover.

    Not necessarily. Way back in Edwards v Aguilar, which was a much more blatant law, seven judges on the Court of Appeals (sitting en banc) bought the “academic freedom” argument, and two justices on the Supreme Court also bought it. One of them is still there and he has a lot more support now. The law could easily be upheld, regardless of the arguments.

  12. jakc says

    On the bright side, doesn’t it give a good biology teacher the chance to demonstrate why creationism is wrong and evolution is right? My guess is that Bio classes in Louisiana aren’t teaching evolution now.

  13. d cwilson says

    On the bright side, doesn’t it give a good biology teacher the chance to demonstrate why creationism is wrong and evolution is right? My guess is that Bio classes in Louisiana aren’t teaching evolution now.

    Don’t be silly. It’s Louisiana, which means the law is intended to be used only by gawd-fearing Christians.

    You know, like that state legislator who helped pass LA’s law allowing state funding for religious schools who was then shocked, Shocked I Tell You! that Muslim schools were able to apply for funding, too.

  14. cjcolucci says

    It will be a while before a proper lawsuit can be brought. You can’t go in now and challenge the law because, on its face, it does nothing more than permit teaching of such scientific controversies as might exist. Nothing wrong with that, though I have to wonder whether anything about which there is legitimate scientific controversy is teachable at K-12 level, or whether K-12 science teachers have the chops to teach anything genuinely controversial.
    Of course, that’s not what this is really about, but we’ll have to wait until somebody actually uses the law and does what its backers obviously want done. Then, with a developed record of poorly-disguised religious teaching, you can bring a case and likely win — unless a President Romney gets three appointments to the Supreme Court.

  15. Chiroptera says

    “We believe this resolution will give teachers the academic freedom they deserve to teach the controversy where appropriate,” said Board member Jim Lloyd, who made the motion to approve the new policy.

    Because if there is one thing that has always characterized American conservative evangelicals, it’s been their historic support and protection of academic freedom!

  16. raven says

    In a place that allowed “teaching strengths and weaknesses of evolution” briefly, a creationist teacher claimed to do that.

    Someone asked her what she thought the strengths of evolutionary theory were.

    “Well there aren’t any so I just leave all that out”.

    You can be sure in Louisiana that “teaching the controversy” means “teaching straight YEC mythology.”

    In most of the fundie states, evolution isn’t taught at all in most schools. Too many science teachers have been fired or forced out for doing exactly that.

  17. Abby Normal says

    During a recent bus ride I was having a discussion with a friend of mine about creationism in public schools. She’s a biologist but also a conservative Catholic and in favor of including some creationism in the curriculum. We went back and forth for about half an hour, getting nowhere but our physical destination.

    The next day the discussion continued. This time the conversation was much shorter.

    Her: I was thinking about our discussion. Okay, here’s my thinking. We should present the kids with all the information, so nothing they need to make up their own mind is excluded.
    Me: You’re just bound and determined to get God into the science classroom, aren’t you?
    Her: No, it’s just you can’t prove God didn’t design evolution, that he’s not guiding it.
    Me: We’re not talking about Anything-You-Imagine-Is-Possible Class. We’re talking about Science Class.
    Her: But God could have done it.
    Me: In what way is that a testable prediction?
    Her: It’s not, but…
    Me: What’s the definition of science?
    Her: It’s… FUCK!

    Hooray for small victories.

  18. raven says

    In a place that allowed “teaching the strengths and weaknesses of evolution” briefly, a creationist teacher claimed to do that.

    Someone asked her what she thought the strengths of evolutionary theory were.

    “Well there aren’t any so I just leave all that out”.

    You can be sure in Louisiana that “teaching the controversy” means “teaching straight YEC mythology.”

    In most of the fundie states, evolution isn’t taught at all in most schools. Too many science teachers have been fired or forced out for doing exactly that.

  19. zmidponk says

    The real kicker is that if they did teach the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ of scientific theories, like evolution, in an honest and straightforward manner, along with teaching the kids how to do science properly, not only would they underline the importance of evolution, but possibly give the kids ideas about areas of research, should they then go on to become evolutionary biologists or something of that nature.

    That’s what I think many creationists don’t understand about proper science – if you accurately identify a genuine area of weakness in a theory, that’s actually a good thing. It’s only when you try to do this based on grade 1, premium bullshit, which is what most if not all of ‘creation science’ is all about, that it’s a bad thing.

  20. Didaktylos says

    It’s all a long-term strategy – and in the immediate term it means the education budget gets spent on legal fees rather than actually educating the next generation.

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