Louisiana Science Education: Is There Any Hope?

AS YOU KNOW, the recently enacted (and misleadingly named) “Louisiana Science Education Act” authorizes the use of unspecified “supplementary materials” for teaching evolution in state-run science classes. It is widely assumed by rational observers that the only purpose of this shameful legislation is to permit creationism (including intelligent design) to be taught along with science — or maybe instead of science.

We’ve previously reported on one possible firewall — the librarians — who may rebel at acquiring creationist books as “supplemental materials.” See Louisiana’s “No Kin to Monkeys” Act — Phase II.

Thanks to a tip from someone who doesn’t want to be quoted, but who has been a good source for the Curmudgeon, there may be another barrier to the tidal wave of creationism that threatens to destroy science education in Louisiana. It’s the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). According to that Board’s website:

The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was established as a constitutional body during the 1973 Constitutional Convention.

BESE became the administrative policy-making body for elementary-secondary schools, and in accordance with the Constitution, eight elected members from the eight BESE districts serve on the Board along with three members-at-large appointed by the Governor. The Board sets key education initiatives and strives to provide leadership in setting an education agenda for the continuous improvement of public education as measured by student and school achievement.

BESE has eight elected members, and three more members are appointed by the governor. They have monthly meetings, and publish their agenda ten days in advance. When set, that agenda should appear here: BESE Monthly Agendas.

Why are we writing about these arcane bureaucratic details? Our source tells us:

The next major development in Louisiana’s Science Education Act may occur August 19-21, when the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets.

We are also informed that:

There may be some movement (perhaps a resolution or the formation of a committee) aimed at developing guidelines or criteria for the approval of “supplemental materials.”

This is entirely credible, because BESE seems to have the power to prohibit materials, although the new creationism-friendly law doesn’t spell out how they should go about doing this, and the list of participants in such decisions is a ridiculously tangled mess. 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 there it is. BESE has the power (perhaps) to make rules about what “supplemental materials” can be used by the schools under its jurisdiction. If the Board acts appropriately, Louisiana may be spared from becoming the joke of the Western world. Well, it’s already achieved that, but the state’s children may be spared the consequences.

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3 responses to “Louisiana Science Education: Is There Any Hope?

  1. Pingback: Louisiana: Chaos Expected For New School Term « The Sensuous Curmudgeon

  2. Pingback: Science Education in Louisiana: Update « The Sensuous Curmudgeon

  3. Ed writes: “Louisiana may be spared from becoming the joke of the Western world. ”

    This week a law against cockfighting went into effect in Louisiana (the last state to do so). Not without controversy, though. Bobby J must have gotten approval to sign that from the local fundies.