La.'s Creationism 'junk science' law nearing implementation
The state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will take up further debate over how and to what extent Louisiana’s science curriculum in public middle schools and high schools will be invaded by the “junk science” of creationism. These new guidelines the board is setting could be finalized by this Thursday. “Backers said the law is needed to give science teachers more freedom to hold discussions that challenge traditional theories, including Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution,” The Advocate reported last week. “Critics contend the law is aimed at injecting religious themes into public schools.”
Called the Louisiana Science Education Act, the law was passed overwhelmingly by the Legislature last year. Its authors and proponents claim it merely allows local school boards to approve supplemental materials — in addition to state-issued textbooks — for public school science classes in discussing evolution, cloning and global warming. Sounds harmless, as though the only intention is for teachers to discuss the mainstream science of issues like evolution. But it’s not. “The law is intended to especially target evolution, to undermine the credibility of the science that supports it,” says Barbara Forrest, one of the founders of the Louisiana Coalition for Science (and a professor of philosophy in the department of history and political science at Southeastern and board member at the National Center for Science Education). The other subjects, while certainly topics the Religious Right does not like or support, are not the central targets. “They just threw that stuff in because they are constantly being accused of singling out evolution for attack,” Forrest says. “Evolution and the ‘origins of life,’ which is also in the bill, are the primary targets.”
For many of us interested and active in economic development and hopeful in a newly resurgent Louisiana — fresh from a (more or less) successful effort to reform its image as the corruption capital of the U.S. — this is not good news. It can’t be good news either for Secretary of Economic Development Stephen Moret who already has a difficult enough burden to attract the nation’s new technology-based entrepreneurs and their companies populated with some of the best and brightest talent. But his task will clearly be made much harder by this educationally regressive new law. Highly educated young professionals coming out of America’s top schools are not likely to cotton to the idea that their kids will be placed in public schools teaching this thoroughly discredited pseudo-science.
Why do we insist on Louisiana remaining the butt of Jay Leno’s monologue jokes? Aside from our reputation as one of the most corrupt in the nation (Illinois notwithstanding), we hold another dubious, perennial distinction: one of the nation’s most illiterate states. This attempt to pollute the teaching of science in our public schools with religious dogma does more long-term damage to ourselves than all the painful headlines about Edwin Edwards, David Duke or “Dollar” Bill Jefferson combined, because the damage is far more lasting. Is this the message of educational ignorance that we want to send prospective employers considering locating or relocating to Louisiana?
Ironically, as Gov. Bobby Jindal (who signed this dog of a bill into law) said, “We have to compete based on a skilled work force. We have to compete with states all over the country. We have to compete with countries all over the world.” Indeed we do. And corrupting our science curricula with 19th century “science” does not do the least bit of good for Louisiana’s economic development future or our children’s ability to compete in a very competitive world. Gov. Jindal and our legislators lacked the will or the wisdom to kill this bill before it became law; now the only barricade standing between our kids and this discredited religious dogma masquerading as science is the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. BESE needs to hear from you that this is a very bad idea.
MAY 23 Here's a story in the Picayune about some statistics that must come as a blow to folks who believe that any private school can do a better job of educating kids than any public school: Danielle Dreilinger reports that only 30 percent of the voucher kids are passing. That's less than half of the state wide average, she says. It's an interesting statistic because most of the schools (if not all) taking voucher kids have never had their students' standardized test scores released to the public before.
MAY 23 Stephen Sabludowsky blogs on Bayou Buzz about auditor requests here. Recently the state GOP started crowing about a request from the Legislative Auditor, claiming they were being targeted because of their anti-tax stance. (Uh, your what?) Denial and hyperbole aside, the state Democratic party blew holes in that theory with an email announcing they'd received the same request, Sabludowsky writes here.
MAY 23 Jim Brown blogs about the senate race in this post. He says that, given Bobby Jindal's "lack of traction" on the national stage, it might make more sense for the governor to consider running against Mary Landrieu for the senate seat. Since Tim Teeple left the Cassidy team, it makes sense he might land on a Jindal for Senate team, Brown opines.
MAY 23 In this Louisiana Voice post, blogger Tom Aswell writes of rumors that his nemesis, state Superintendent of Education John White, may be soon departing Louisiana for a federal post. It's hard to believe, given his performance, Aswell says, but stranger things have happened. An anti-White BESE member says that, if true, White is quitting before he can be fired.
MAY 23 In this post on American Zombie, blogger Jason Berry writes about the Mother's Day shooting. Mayor Landrieu said that "this is not who we are," but the fact is, this is New Orleans, Berry writes. The violence infused in the city is the result of a culture created by "sins of omission or sins of commission," Berry writes. It's not a problem that can be solved by legislating, policing, praying or publicizing, he says: Someone's got to understand what's happening first.
MAY 23 This post in the Westside Journal tells us what Port Allen Mayor Deedy has been up to lately: vetoing ordinances, apparently. This story is most interesting, however, when it delves into a petition that has been circulating around the city lately. It accuses the former mayor of a lot of nasty things; the former mayor says it is full of lies and "broken syntax" which may be a larger offense in his eyes.
MAY 23 This editorial posted in The Advocate is a bit confusing. The writing is poor - definitely not up to the usual editorial writing standard there - and the point is hard to grasp. Apparently, the writer is saying that privatization of state efforts is OK, as long as there is oversight and transparency, but Jindal's not good at that, and the legislature shouldn't over-react. Okey Dokey. Can't they get one of them Pulitzer-winning people to write an editorial?
MAY 23 This post on The Lens gives you links to a new Google Earth tool that allows you to see any spot on earth transform over the past 30 years. Bob Marshall, who covers the coast for the paper, says that in the case of Louisiana's coastline, it's possibly something you don't want to see, because it's not a pretty picture. There are several clips here, showing critical areas erode away. For Marshall, it was vindication for all those times he was met with eye-rolling when he talked about erosion.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.