WE haven’t had much news out of Louisiana lately, so before discussing today’s story we’ll provide some background on last year’s developments to bring you up to speed. If you’re already current, you can skip the next few indented paragraphs:
In the beginning, state senator Ben Nevers led the Louisiana legislature to enact an anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism “Academic Freedom” bill modeled after the Academic Freedom Act promoted by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids).
Then the bill was signed by governor Bobby Jindal, perhaps the world’s only creationist who was a biology major at Brown University. The Louisiana statute permits unspecified “supplemental materials” — wink, wink — to be used in science classes.
It was left to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to draft regulations regarding what those “supplemental materials” might be. Their staff wisely prepared guidelines with a specific ban on materials that promote creationism or intelligent design, or that advance the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind. Although that language was sane, Constitutional, and beneficial for the students, it contradicted the unspoken but universally understood purpose of the legislation.
BESE struck the language that would have kept creationism out of science class. Instead, they opted for a fig leaf saying that the materials “shall not promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.” But BESE’s fig leaf doesn’t fool anyone. By refusing to specifically ban creationism and ID, while keeping the ban on religious discrimination, BESE invites creationist groups to complain that science itself violates the guidelines by promoting a theory — evolution — that discriminates against their religious beliefs. In other words, BESE sided with the creationists.
Things may be heating up again. In the Times-Picayune we read: ACLU wants revision in science teaching guidelines. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
BATON ROUGE — The American Civil Liberties Union wants the state education board to revise guidelines it approved earlier this year that govern the teaching of science.
This is a very minimal bit of news. We have no idea whether the ACLU is making a speech, writing a letter, sending an email, or filing a lawsuit. Let’s read on:
The board approved the guidelines in January to implement legislation allowing local school systems and science teachers to use supplemental teaching materials in addition to state-approved science textbooks. Critics of that law say it could lead to the teaching of religion in the guise of science.
Yes, we know all that, but until there’s some improper classroom activity, it’s difficult to figure out what there is for the ACLU to do. We continue:
The guidelines say teachers cannot promote religious doctrine. But the ACLU wants the board to include tougher language that the board rejected in January. That language prohibits the teaching of scientific creationism or intelligent design — concepts struck down by federal courts.
That ship (the board’s guidelines) has already sailed. Where was the ACLU back in January? Well, better late than never.
On the other hand, the ACLU brings with it a whole lot of ideological baggage on unrelated issues that will certainly clutter up everyone’s perceptions. That can’t be helped. They did a good job in Dover. In this one matter, we approve of their position. So let the festivities begin.
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