Louisiana: Another Weird Creationism Bill

The Louisiana legislature won’t adjourn until 06 June, so it’s still a boiling cauldron of creationist madness.

Representative Frank A. Hoffmann, whose page at the legislature’s website gives his occupation as “Retired – Ouachita Parish school system, assistant superintendent,” has introduced HB 116. This isn’t breaking news; his bill was pre-filed back in March, but it’s just come to our attention.

The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education in April and it was passed by that committee on 01 May. Now it’s scheduled for debate by the House on 13 May. The thing is 8 pages long. It adds to and deletes from an existing statute about public school textbooks; and it changes the functions of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

The bill removes BESE’s state-wide power to adopt textbooks, and it adds a provision saying that BESE can’t require “specific textbooks or other instructional materials that are to be purchased or used” by local school boards. Each local school board will be able to select its own textbooks and materials.

Ah, we see that one of you has a question. Okay, go ahead. You ask: Is this about creationism?

Oh, how cynical you are! Why would anyone suspect such a thing? Have you no confidence in the integrity of the Louisiana legislature? All right — if it will put your suspicious mind to rest, we’ll look around a bit.

In the Monroe News Star of Monroe, Louisiana (Hoffmann represents that area, so perhaps they know him) we read: Textbook bill draws criticism. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, said Friday his bill to give local school districts more flexibility in selecting textbooks has been wrongfully characterized as being about teaching creationism in the classroom.

Shocking! It seems there are others who are suspicious of Hoffmann’s bill. The news story continues:

The bill shifts responsibility for selecting classroom textbooks from the state Department of Education to local school districts. Hoffman says local districts should be allowed to choose whatever materials they think will help them best educate their students and to help them reach the state’s achievement goals.

Nothing there but apple pie, right? Let’s read on:

Attorney and American Civil Liberties Union member Charles Kincade said Hoffmann’s bill does a disservice to taxpayers and students.

Troublemakers! We continue:

“Hoffmann continues to carry water for the Louisiana Family Forum, an out of the mainstream group that opposes the teaching of human evolution,” Kincade said. “It would lower standards, oversight and accountability. It would open the door to local boards to try to interject pseudoscience and creationism into the public classroom.”

Well! This is getting interesting. The Louisiana Family Forum is the flamingly creationist lobbying outfit responsible for passing (and then defending) the Louisiana Science Education Act. Here’s more:

This is not the first time that Hoffman has tried a similar bill. An attempt failed last year in the Senate. “We were accused of trying to teach some things in the science area,” he said of last year’s bill. “That’s not what this is about.”

Your Curmudgeon, for one, believes the honorable lawmaker. We’ve been told over and over again that creationism is the only path to logic and truth and morality. Therefore, even if Hoffmann were a creationist, why would he lie about his noble intent to promote creationism? As the creationists say: What is he afraid of?

While you’re pondering that cosmic dilemma, we’ll move on. The story ends with this:

Hoffmann is assistant superintendent of Ouachita Parish Schools, which has used the Holy Bible as the basis for elective courses.

Okay, dear reader, who (yeah, we know, it should be whom) are you going to believe — a Louisiana legislator or the ACLU? To help you decide, we kept looking for information. We found an editorial in The Town Talk of Alexandria, Louisiana, titled Teach Louisiana students standard science from standard texts. It says:

Without knowing the background, there is no apparent reason to object to a bill in the Louisiana Legislature that would give school districts more freedom to choose textbooks. Unless you remember that the sponsor of House Bill 116, Rep. Frank Hoffman, R-West Monroe, has a history of opposition to standard science textbooks.

After giving us a bit of Hoffman’s shady legislative history, they tell us:

These latter-day flat-earthers push “alternatives” to evolution — a thinly veiled effort to introduce into public-school classrooms, and substitute for evolutionary science’s discoveries, the Bible’s story of Genesis.

Strong stuff. You’ll want to read it for yourselves, so we’ll skip most of it. The editorial concludes with this:

Hasn’t Louisiana been embarrassed enough by creationism and its successive versions intended to be more politically sellable? We urge lawmakers to reject H.B. 116 and other efforts to push political and religious agendas in science education.

So there you are. It seems there’s always monkey business in Louisiana.

Update — it passed in the House: Louisiana: Still More Creationist Madness.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Louisiana: Another Weird Creationism Bill

  1. Wow, and in “Losey-ana” of all places. Who would have thought?

  2. I can’t seem to “like” your post, and I wish I could! :D

  3. docbill1351

    If you think State School Boards are lame then you haven’t seen anything until you get to the local level! Sure, local boards can handle things like floating bond issues, working with teacher’s unions, recruiting superintendents and so forth, but local boards are composed of community members interested in education but overwhelmingly not educators themselves.

    State school boards are able to do a decent job of selecting textbooks because they have the resources to pull together selection committees composed of educators and relevant experts. (Except in Texas where we have to contend with know-nothing, right-wing nut job ideologues) Local boards have few to none of those resources, nor do they have the economic clout to drive deep discounts. It’s a sad lose-lose situations for local boards to attempt to manage textbook selection.

    Of course, we all know the intent of Hoffman’s bill is to simply approve Of Pandas and People and be done with it. I doubt he would dwell much on Calculus I.

  4. Ceteris Paribus

    Between Texas and Louisiana, The Fickle Finger of Fate is pointing at a win-win trophy for creationists.

    In Texas, where the state board picks the text books for over 4 million students, every publishing house knows they have pay heed to what the Texas market requires if they expect to sell their text books to the state board.

    So it is in every publisher’s best interest to offer Texas books that include “let the children decide” creationism. And take care that the “evidence” doesn’t favor evolution. Also in the Texas market, publishers of history texts well know that David Barton doesn’t like Thomas Jefferson’s enlightenment to get much mention.

    But preparing a textbook for publication is an expensive process that the publishers don’t want to repeat for the process for each of the other 14,000 local school boards, many of which have the power to make their own choice of books. The result is, whatever was offered to Texas, is pretty much what the rest of the US gets.

    So on to Louisiana, which may permit local school boards to pick books.
    There the Louisiana students will face Hobson’s choice at work. A local board could chose among the same deficient books that were generated for Texas. Or the local school board could pick a book from the creationist home-schooling textbook industry.

  5. Docbill, I have to admit that I’ve been away from the process for a few years now, but while I was teaching junior high science I served on four curriculum development/textbook selection committees for our local school district. The school board left it up to the teachers and district administrators to handle the job, and I think we did a fair job.

    Granted, we had to select textbooks from what was already out there — with just two jr. highs in the district, publishers weren’t falling over themselves trying to come up with a book that would please us. However, there were many very good texts to select from, and all the texts handling biology or earth science did a good job with evolution.

    Science teachers can be a cantankerous lot. I’d bet that most hold the same opinion of creationism as our Curmudgeon, and if a state board is shoving a text down their throat that tiptoes around evolution, there’s going to be some “extra-curricular” science lectures taking place.

  6. docbill1351

    Well, RSG, and that was the case in Dover. It was the science teachers standing upon their teaching ethics to balk at reading the creationism statement in class. Thus, the administration stepped in and the rest is history.

    Yes, science teachers are the front and last line of all this foolishness.