By a 6-1 voice vote Tuesday, a committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved several science textbooks for Louisiana public high schools — books that had come under fire from creationists and advocates of intelligent design who argue the textbooks are dogmatic about Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The vote is a huge win for proponents of mainstream biology education and a defeat for the Louisiana Family Forum, a Christian advocacy group that is the books’ chief detractor.
“My immediate reaction is we are very pleased that BESE did the right thing, and we hope that today’s decision is the end of the Louisiana Family Forum on Louisiana science education policy — that’s my reaction,” says Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University who has led the charge against LFF attempts to compromise science curricula. Forrest’s 2007 book, Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press), coauthored with biologist and University of Virginia Emeritus Professor Paul Gross, chronicled the creationists’ systematic — and politically sophisticated — attacks on science curricula in public schools.
District 7 BESE member Dale Bayard, who represents Lafayette and southwest Louisiana, was the lone nay vote in Tuesday’s proceedings. Earlier he explained to The IndependentWeekly his rationale for voting against the textbooks: “Can you just swear on a stack of Bibles and bet your life [that evolution is correct]?” Bayard said last week, hypothetically posing the question to educator friends. “And they say, ‘Absolutely not.’ I say, ‘Well then why do we print a textbook that says that? Why can’t we provide the children with textbooks that provide objective educational methods to look at what’s out there? Must we go out and do the research ourselves? We’re going to spend $72 million with a textbook company, and they’re not going to swear this is accurate?’ They don’t even want to put a disclaimer in their textbook.”
The approval of the textbooks is not yet final; the full 11-member BESE must still vote on the books at a meeting Thursday.
“We’re not going to take anything for granted,” Forrest adds. “We’re going to have some people there just to make sure that today’s vote sticks.”
Among those speaking in favor of evolution in the biology curriculum were the Rev. Patti Snyder, pastor at University Presbyterian Church, along with Associate Pastor Clint Mitchell. Students, teachers and scientists also spoke in favor of the textbooks.
“We had some very, very wonderful people there to speak — truly citizens of which Louisiana should be so proud,” Forrest says. “I know I’m sounding like a proud mom,” she adds with a laugh. “But these kids were just wonderful.”
For more on the fight over biology education in Louisiana public schools, read Wednesday’s Independent cover story, “Devolve: Creationists are jeopardizing science education in Louisiana public schools and once again making us the laughing stock of the country.”
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
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.