An understated map of the problem

This is a map of all the American schools that are officially teaching creationism with the full permission of the state educational system, either through voucher programs or state laws that allow nonsense to be taught (Louisiana and Tennessee stand out as gangrenous spots, don’t they?).

It minimizes the problem. Minnesota looks pure and clean, but that’s because our laws expressly forbid teaching creationism here…but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t snuck under the table. About a quarter of our teachers give instruction in creationism without state endorsement.


  1. says

    That sucks horribly! What forces are assembled to fight back? Is it like whack-a-mole with only one guy taking on a sea of troubles?

  2. gussnarp says

    I’ll point this out here as I did over at Hemant’s post, the map is very misleading. Tennessee and Louisiana have a real problem in that state law allows the teaching of creationism, and that needs to be overturned, but that is not a map of schools teaching creationism. It’s a map of schools that have permission to teach creationism from the state. It tells us nothing about whether they are or not. It’s just taking a bad law and turning it into a bad map. The worst part is that Tennessee and Louisiana being mapped that way distracts us from the states we ought to really be concerned about, Florida, Texas, Indiana, Ohio, and Georgia.

  3. Wylann says

    One of the problems is that being ‘against the law’ means almost nothing. Unlike, for instance, traffic laws, there is no specified punishment for doing so, and the school districts, teachers, and administrators are only held to civil punishment. At best, one of the teachers is martyred scape-goated and loses their job.

    There needs to be real legal penalties, and they need to be applied to the individuals, not the district in general.

  4. Useless says

    Creation Science isn’t official in Tennessee. It’s that Governor Haslam has passed a long-overdue law giving our teachers academic freedom, which explicitly includes the right to teach creationism, rebut global climate change or any causes thereof, change history in any way they see fit, and presumably to teach the reality of a flat-earth and repealing gravitation. We can feel proud that our state government has met the needs of its citizens and teachers so well. I still wonder what would happen to that academic freedom if a teacher would give a short history lesson on Republicans.

  5. says

    I’ll throw in my reiteration that de facto versus de jure is a big part of the issue that the map doesn’t convey. It’s bad enough that there are legal schools out there, but there’s countless ways bad teachers will slip it in.

    In my 8th grade Earth Science class, we went through the evolution chapter of the textbook in the blink of an eye, mostly as reading assignment with an unnecessary, derisive “if you believe that” added onto it. That’s one minor but insidious example from my life where they use silence for their agenda. There are also horrible examples when bad teachers and faculty don’t even try to hide their intentions and bring out bullying, public shaming, preachers passing themselves off as generic speakers, and so on.

  6. says

    Except for Hawaii, our neighborhood in NW Washington state is geographically about as far from the epicenter of creationist nonsense as one can get. Even so, our voters, in their infinite wisdom, and encouraged by the local bible belt east of the Cascades, recently authorized tax-supported “charter” schools that will have the option of teaching non-conventional curricula. No concrete information as yet, but it won’t surprise me to learn that some form of creationism/ID will sneak into the overall agenda.

  7. leoofno says

    Gussnarp #4: So true. My kids go to High School in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Thay are tought evolution. Now, St. Tammany is probably the top public school district in the state, so we may be different than some others. Orleans Parish (ie, New Orleans) also does not teach creationism.

    So, yes, the map is a bit misleading.

  8. says

    I never really thought about creationism in schools when growing up, because I had never encountered it or heard about anyone else encountering it, but I only experienced a small number of Canadian schools. I am now a bit curious about creationism in Canadian schools and just how common it is. Religion did occasionally make it into my schools, I remember a number of questionable troupes coming to school to sing and dance and talk about abstinence, and the Gideons came and gave out their little NT and psalms books. Also, while I had plenty of uncomfortable sex ed teachers, I also had one that quite clearly had an agenda to make sure that the idea of sex being icky and terrible was well understood (I strongly remember her bringing up anal sex and making it out to be pretty gross), and that we really should be abstinent.

  9. says

    Here’s a follow up to comment #2.

    A Louisiana teacher who taught her sixth grade class that evolution is “impossible” and that the bible is “100 percent true” ridiculed a Buddhist student during class and announced that those who don’t believe in god are “stupid,” according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.

    When the child’s parents reported the incidents, the Sabine Parish superintendent allegedly told them “this is the Bible Belt,” and asked whether the child, referred to as “C.C.” could either change his faith or transfer to a school where “there are more Asians.”

    According to the ACLU, the teacher, Rita Rourke, works at a school in Sabine Parish, La., that consistently touts Christian beliefs through portraits of Jesus Christ in the halls, a “lighted, electronic marquee” outside the school that scrolls Bible verses, and regular staff member recitation of prayers with students during class. “The day after meeting with the Lanes, the Superintendent sent a letter to Negreet Principal Gene Wright stating that she approved of Negreet’s official religious practices. Wright read the letter to the entire Negreet student body over the school’s public-address system,” according to the complaint.” […]

    This ridiculing of a Buddhist student definitely demonstrates that teaching creationism is bad for everyone.
    More details at Think Progress.

  10. magistramarla says

    Bronze Dog @ #7,
    Your experience sounds exactly like my Grandson’s experience just last year in his jr. high science class.
    He’s already been steeped in science by his Mom, Step-Dad, Neurobiologist auntie and Grandpa, who holds several science degrees.
    When his teacher made those comments about evolution, my grandson began refuting it with facts.
    It didn’t make him very popular with his teacher or classmates, but his family sure was proud of him!

  11. Azuma Hazuki says

    I’m all for teaching creationism in public schools…as part of history or religious-studies classes, not science. In fact, we should teach all the creationisms! The Norse one is pretty badass :D

  12. chigau (違う) says

    I have read a number of creation stories that involve things other than breathing on dirt.
    Gods have many interesting bodily secretions.

  13. magistramarla says

    That was part of the fun of teaching Latin. I could throw in some Greek mythology and since our textbook even included some discussion of Alexandria under the Romans, we had some fun delving into Egyptian myths. I made sure to include the Greek flood story and the textbook discussed the “baptism” that was part of joining the cult of Isis.
    If some of the students drew any conclusions when comparing these stories with those that they had learned in Sunday school, it wasn’t my fault, was it?

  14. JJ Schwartz says

    Seems to me that private schools that teach creationism shout NOT receive tax payer support. So much for the separation of church (teaching a Bible-based myth is religion) from state, yet another part of the US Constitution that’s being figuratively used as TP (I’m being semi-polite).

  15. damien75 says

    Please, help me.

    Pieces of information do not fit in my mind.

    It was my understanding that teaching creationism in school, whether elementary, middle or high, was illegal all over the US.

    Is that wrong?

  16. gussnarp says

    Damien #20,

    I’ll answer as if you’re not from the U.S., just in case. In the U.S. the term “public school” refers to schools provided by the government, usually the state. In public schools it is indeed illegal to teach creationism. Tennessee and Louisiana are the only state officially breaking this law, but even there, they’re doing it under the guys of legislation that says “teaching the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories” or some such. In all likelihood even that will fail in the end, but it takes time for challenges to work through the courts. Nevertheless, I expect those state laws to be overturned.

    The remaining dots mostly indicate private schools, paid for by tuition dollars, teaching creationism. Private schools can pretty much do as they please. There may be some academic standards, but nothing that would prevent any religious teaching. That was fine on a legal basis for a while, but then came George W. Bush with the No Child Left Behind act. Part of that act requires public schools that do not meet certain scores on standardized tests to provide funding vouchers that students can use to choose a private school instead. It’s got to be one of the worst laws in education policy of all time. There are also laws that allow charter schools, which are sort of somewhere in between public and private. Once again, “failing” public schools are required to provide some of the funding for these charter schools. Charters are a fuzzy area for me, so don’t quote me on that. What I do know is that in my kids’ school district, fully 20% of the money that I and other residents and parents pay in taxes for the schools are being given out to private and charter schools. Those schools then turn around and continue to teach creationism, just like they did before receiving the vouchers. That’s created a new gray area in the law. I would like to see stricter curriculum standards for private schools accepting public money in this way, but for the most part, such a thing doesn’t exist. We need either a court ruling or a new law preventing schools that accept vouchers from teaching creationism, but it doesn’t exist. And given the political climate in the U.S., I wouldn’t count on seeing it soon.

  17. David Marjanović says

    Gods have many interesting bodily secretions.

    And non-secretions. Did you know we were made out of maize and blood?

    but then came George W. Bush with the No Child Left Behind act.

    The “No Child’s Behind Left” Act it has been called.

  18. ledasmom says

    It just occurred to me that, if George W. meant “No Child Left Behind” in the sense of the “Left Behind” series of book-like objects, it all makes perfect sense. They’re all going to be raptured, so all you need to teach them is the religious stuff.
    Mind you, due to a cold I am on antihistamines and enough caffeine not to fall asleep due to antihistamines, so the set of what makes perfect sense to me right now may not coincide much with the set of what actually makes perfect sense.

  19. gussnarp says

    @ledasmom, #23:

    That actually wouldn’t surprise me at all. Except I don’t think he’s that clever.

    Everyone: Sorry for all the egregious typos in my last comment that I just re-read. “In the guys”? Really? Come on, fingers!

  20. damien75 says

    To gussnarp #21

    Thank you very much.

    I did not realise that private schools could teach creationism.

    I knew that some schools were teaching it in the US, but I thought they were breaking the law and doing it pretty much in secrecy.

    The problem is much worse than I thought.

    thank you again for the clarification.

  21. Thumper: Token Breeder says


    Failing public schools are required to divert funding to charter schools? Thus depriving them of the cash they would need to dig themselves out of the failure-pit? That’s a really stupid law.