Science Education in Louisiana: Update

THIS IS AN UPDATE on the status of science education in Louisiana. As you know, that state’s legislature (in their wisdom) have disgraced themselves by passing the misleadingly named “Louisiana Science Education Act.”

That anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism legislation authorizes the use of unspecified “supplementary materials” for teaching evolution in state-run science classes. It was sponsored by creationist legislators who were supported by creationist pressure groups, including the Discovery Institute. When the bill was passed — and inexplicably signed by governor Bobby Jindal, a biology major! — creationist publicity organs around the country went into a veritable orgy of celebration. For example: Buffoon Award Winner — WorldNetDaily.

That’s history now, and we must live with the existing situation. As we reported earlier (Louisiana Science Education: Is There Any Hope?), the cumbersome legal setup is that the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) now plays a central role. The text of the statute says:

E. The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and each city, parish, or other local public school board shall adopt and promulgate the rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of this Section prior to the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.

So it’s up to BESE. Presumably they could make up a list of unacceptable materials and distribute it to the local school boards. This could be an easy job — it would be for us. Anything hawked by creationist organizations (most definitely including the Discovery Institute), should be banned, and anything approved by recognized groups of biology teachers should be acceptable — for example, The National Association of Biology Teachers. Additionally, the US Supreme Court decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, in which an earlier Louisiana creationism law was declared unconstitutional, should be required reading before any local board meets to approve anything. That’s how your Curmudgeon would handle things.

What is BESE doing? They have monthly meetings, and publish their agenda ten days in advance. When set, that agenda should appear here: BESE Monthly Agendas. It’s difficult to find what you want there, but if you go to near the bottom of their clickable index in the right margin, and select: “All Agendas for Current Month,” you’ll end up with a 34-page pdf file. Buried in that bureaucratic prose, at page 25, we find the agenda for a BESE meeting set for Tuesday, 19 August, a week from today. Fine, now what are they going to do about creationism in science class?

On page 28, under “Unfinished Business,” is this item:

Consideration of a resolution on teacher academic freedom to teach scientific evidence regarding controversial scientific subjects.

There may be related items under consideration, but we can’t interpret most of what’s listed in that agenda. Anyway, the issue appears to be coming up for “consideration” next week. Eight of the board’s members are elected from BESE districts, and another three members are appointed by the governor (a raging creationist). Most of them know exactly what the issues are, so however they behave, they’ll know what they’re doing.

We’ll report more as we learn it.

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