Louisiana Creationism: Wolves Guarding Sheep


NOW that the new school year has begun, we’ve been waiting for the creationism to hit the fan in Louisiana so we can have some litigation to write about. Here’s some background, which most of you can skip:

Louisiana is the only state in the US that can boast of passing 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).

That bill, now known as the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which permits unspecified “supplemental materials” — wink, wink — to be used in science classes, was signed by governor Bobby Jindal, also known as Bobby Jindal, the Exorcist, who is perhaps the world’s only creationist who majored in biology at Brown University.

It appears that we’re not the only ones anticipating controversy in Louisiana.

In the Advocate from Baton Rouge we read: Procedure crafted for handling evolution-materials complaints. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

The state’s top school board Wednesday approved procedures for residents who object to materials that challenge the teaching of evolution in public school science classes. The rules, which were praised by evolution critics, stem from a law approved last year by the Legislature.

If “evolution critics” praise the rules, we know what to expect. Let’s read on:

The department recommended that any complaints undergo an initial review by a three-member panel named by the agency, then go to the state board for a final decision. But Dale Bayard, of Sulphur, chairman of the committee that tackled the issue, changed that and the committee went along.

Bayard is a full-blown, flaming creationist, as we discussed earlier this year. Continuing with today’s news story:

Under Bayard’s change, two reviewers will be named by the department to review the science materials in question as well as one reviewer each named by the challenger, the school and the publisher. The five-member panel will determine whether the materials:

* Promote any religious doctrine, which is banned by the state law.
* Are scientifically sound.
* Are appropriate for the grade.

Bayard’s committee approved the complaint process without arguments.

Let’s think about this. There will be five reviewers — two named by the state Department of Education. So that’s probably two creationists right there. The other three reviewers will be named as follows: one by the challenger (presumably a sane person objecting to classroom creationism); one by the school (probably a creationist); and one by the publisher of the creationist material (unquestionably a flaming creationist). So in most cases, there will be four creationists on the five-member review panel. All clear now?

Here’s more:

Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum Action, praised the rules and said Bayard’s plan was better than the department’s recommendation.

“Arguably this is the closest thing that would mimic due process,” Mills said in a telephone interview after the meeting. “That seems equitable to me.”

Mills seems to know even less about due process than he does science. Moving along:

Barbara Forrest of Holden, a professor and co-founder of the LA Coalition for Science, said in a telephone interview after the meeting that she was not aware that a committee of the state board was discussing the issue on Wednesday.

Forrest, who has criticized the law, called Bayard a point man for the Louisiana Family Forum.

Barbara got blind-sided on this one. The committee must have intentionally done their work in secret to avoid her customarily keen scrutiny.

So there you are. The “review” procedure for any parent brave enough to object to creationist material is an absolute farce. But that’s the procedure which must be followed before the litigation can commence.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Louisiana Creationism: Wolves Guarding Sheep

  1. Like a bunch of adolescents writing “porn” on a bathroom stall.

  2. The Gadfly says:

    Like a bunch of adolescents writing “porn” on a bathroom stall.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that … Hey, at least there’s some reality to the subject matter.

  3. As in investor in two major European Biotech firms, I, for one, welcome your new American Creationist overlords…

  4. Nothing like having a “crafted” procedure that will “mimic due process”, huh? At least with Bayard’s 5-member panel the challenger will have one person on their side whereas there would be none with the original 3-person panel. And, who knows, there is a slim chance that the reviewers appointed by the school and publisher might side with the challenger. Of course, even if the review favors the challenger, it still has to go to the state board for a final decision. So, they are still screwed.

  5. Am I correct in thinking that teachers in Louisiana don’t need prior approval to use “supplemental materials”? So challenging these will be like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped? By the time a challenge has been made, the review is done and the state board makes its decision, the teacher is free to move onto other similar “supplemental materials”?

    Maybe things are different now but, in my day, “supplemental materials” were often one-time use material that changed often. Unless the teacher is fired, they will likely continue trying to insert “supplemental materials”.

  6. One other thing that bothers me is, where will these challenges come from? Despite Mr. Corbett’s experience (doubtless encouraged by the parents), it is a rare student that will challenge a teacher. So it will be up to the parents. How are they to know? How many parents know what their kids are being taught on a day-to-day basis? How many ever see what “supplemental materials” their kids are exposed to? Many “supplemental materials” never go home (such as a film shown at school), so how would parents know unless they discuss in detail their kid’s school day. How many parents do that? I imagine that, at best, most parents only ask their kids if they have their homework done before being allowed to watch TV or play video/computer-games.

    Even if a parent is interested in the “supplemental materials”, how many will object? From what I have seen, most parents will either approve, not care or, not understand why the “supplemental materials” are inappropriate.

    Of those who do understand why the “supplemental materials” are inappropriate, how many of them will have the fortitude to actually make a challenge, knowing that it will likely make them pariahs in their community and might well cause troubles for their kids?

    What bothers me even more is that, for every challenge that is made, there are probably 100s more that SHOULD be made.

  7. RogerE asks: “One other thing that bothers me is, where will these challenges come from?”

    As with all such issues, it would have to come from parents aware of the problem, who are waiting for an opportunity to make a test case. There must be someone like that in Louisiana.

  8. The Curmudgeon says, “…There must be someone like that in Louisiana.”

    Well, yeah, I would hope so. But, as I said, “What bothers me even more is that, for every challenge that is made, there are probably 100s more that SHOULD be made.”

    That is like scratching the itch instead of curing the infectious disease that causes the problem.

  9. How long does it take to get such five – person – panel to work? The external reviewers will be payed, won’t they? By whom? How much will it cost?

  10. Maybe all the sane people will move out of Louisiana, leaving the rest to the alligators and the next big hurricane, thus proving Darwin’s theory.

  11. I have long shared RogerE’s concerns. (See my post at
    http://wp.me/p1V0H-6p ). As flawed as this procedure is, however, I am a bit relieved. As I wrote at
    http://wp.me/p1V0H-KD :

    It’s pretty easy to find fault with these procedures (as does The Sensuous Curmudgeon [in this post]), but I think overall this is a positive development: I had feared that disputes would be handled in ways that would result in decisions without the kind of record that provides a basis for legal challenges, and could result in decisions about one piece of “supplementary material” that would not set precedent for other materials. This procedure should produce the records and the arguments that will provide a basis for decisions with real precedential value.

  12. Tony Whitson says: “This procedure should produce the records and the arguments that will provide a basis for decisions with real precedential value.”

    Right. There will be a proceeding, and a record of it. However flawed the process is, that’s what will get into the courts. If there ever is a case, it should work out okay.