22 Feb 2011

Teen tells hearing Louisiana Science Education Act is embarrassing, students deserve to be taught proper science

Secular News Daily  -  February 14, 2011

David v. Goliath: Louisiana Student Girds For Battle On Behalf Of Sound Science

by Sandhya Bathija  | Communications Associate for Americans United for Separation of Church and State

A Louisiana high school senior is on a mission to save science education in his home state.

Zachary Kopplin, a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, wants to see the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act repealed, and he’s working with state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) to garner support for a bill she plans to introduce in April that will do just that.

One of his first stops to rally the troops was the Darwin Day event put on by the Louisiana chapter of Americans United last weekend at a Unitarian church in Baton Rouge.

Kopplin told the audience the law is “embarrassing,” a characterization most civil liberties groups and scientists agree with.

When Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the measure back in 2008, Americans United warned that it was merely another attempt by creationists to slip fundamentalist religion into biology classes.

The law was pushed heavily by the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a Religious Right organization that promotes creationism and is an affiliate of the James Dobson-founded Focus on the Family. The measure allows teachers to introduce into the classroom “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials” about evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.

AU experts and our allies in the state knew the measure was made up of code language that would only serve to threaten the integrity of science education.

And sure enough, in November 2010, the LFF started to use the law to chip away at evolution and sound science standards by claiming the state’s biology textbooks give too much credibility to Darwin’s theory. Under the Science Education Act, they argued, science education must expand to include more than just the theory of evolution, but also “intelligent design,” the latest variant of creationism.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council held a hearing to rule on these concerns. Kopplin testified in support of sound science textbooks.

“Louisiana students deserve to be taught proper science that will prepare us for success in the global economy,” he said. “Quite frankly, all the Louisiana Science Education Act does is create an unconstitutional loophole to sneak the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public school science classes. When a school district does try to use this law for its intended purpose, it will quickly be shot down by the courts.

“So there is no need for this committee to try to jump ahead with such a costly and unproductive effort,” he continued, “one that will only embarrass our state and harm our students who need to be properly educated and well prepared for success in the global economy.”

Concluded Kopplin, “Please stand tall and endorse life science textbooks that teach real science rather than undermine it.”

Kopplin’s testimony and that of other supporters of sound science and church-state separation must have worked. The council voted 8-4 to recommend that the board adopt solid biology textbooks and disregard the LFF’s comments. In December, BESE followed through, voting 8-2 to approve these textbooks.

The Baton Rouge Advocate praised Kopplin for taking on the fight against the LFF, which has the support of many influential people in the Louisiana political scene.

“It would have seemed, nevertheless, a mismatch: Young Kopplin’s earnest and articulate defense of science against the Family Forum, headed by the Rev. Gene Mills, one of the most powerful influences in the State Capitol these days,” the newspaper wrote. “But as when David met Goliath, the young man prevailed against the Philistines.”

We hope Kopplin will have the same positive effect on the Louisiana state legislature when the bill repealing the Science Education Act is introduced in April.

It’s great to see a high school student so engaged in civic affairs. Getting the Louisiana legislature to do the right thing won’t be easy. But it’s inspiring to see Kopplin’s determination.

Keep up the good work, Zack!

Related articles on Secular News Daily:
FFRF hits Louisiana plan to teach creationism
School district hopes to teach creationism
Teaching of evolution in school science under new threat

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1 comment:

  1. Creationism Commotion: Five states have anti-evolution bills in play

    by: Simon Brown Secular News Daily January 30, 2012

    It has been more than 25 years since the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law that mandated religious instruction in science classes, yet lawmakers in many states are still pushing ahead with attempts to force creationist concepts into the public schools.

    The 2013 legislative session has just begun, and there are already anti-evolution bills (in some cases more than one) circulating in Missouri, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma and Indiana.

    According to our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), the latest bill is Missouri’s HB 291, a whopping 3,000-word manifesto masquerading as an attempt to provide a “standard science” curriculum for public elementary and secondary schools. It also seeks to create introductory science courses in public colleges and universities and would require those institutions to give “the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design.”

    The bill even includes an incorrectly alphabetized glossary of bogus terms such as “biological intelligent design,” which is defined as “a hypothesis that the complex form and function observed in biological structures are the result of intelligence and, by inference, that the origin of biological life and the diversity of all original species on earth are the result of intelligence.”

    Unfortunately, HB 291 is just the latest attempt in Missouri to create a science curriculum that would teach creationism and evolution side by side. NCSE noted that this bill is very similar to one that failed in 2004 and another that flopped in 2012.

    The creationism proposals in Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma and Indiana aren’t much different from the Missouri plot, although some of those pretend to promote “academic freedom.”

    The freedom to do what, you might ask? Teach creationism in public schools, of course.

    As my colleague Rob Boston noted in a recent piece for Alternet, fundamentalist Christians have been on a crusade to force Bible-based creationism into public schools for decades. As the article shows, the Religious Right has evolved in its approach but not its goal, a fact not lost on those who follow this issue.

    “It’s ironic that creationist strategies continue to evolve,” NCSE Executive Director Eugenie Scott told the Joplin (Mo.) Independent. “At first, creationists tried to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools altogether. When they were no longer able to do so, they tried to ‘balance’ it with the teaching of biblical creationism, or scientific creationism, or intelligent design.

    “After the Kitzmiller trial in 2005,” she continued, “in which teaching intelligent design was found by a federal court to be unconstitutional, there’s been a shift toward belittling evolution – as just a theory, or as in need of critical analysis, or as the subject of scientific controversy.”

    The good news is that the courts have been diligent in barring religious indoctrination in science classes, and that stance has been upheld in multiple rulings.

    And creationist bills have faced relatively tough sledding. In the case of Missouri, the 2012 creationism bill never got past committee, so that bodes well for the 2013 reincarnation.

    It is clear that we must keep a diligent watch on this issue, however, because Religious Right forces are relentless. And these bills pop up time and time again. Religious Right zealots don’t care what the courts say, and they will keep trying to tweak these bills until they can manage to get one passed.

    Creationism bills are bad for education, and they violate the constitutional principle of church-state separation. We need to reiterate those points lest legislators make a big mistake.

    to read the links embedded in this article go to: