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Legislature Still Evolving on Science Ed

The ongoing effort to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act has continued to hit roadblocks this year in the Louisiana legislature. A pair of bills designed to deal a blow to the law that creates what some call a loophole in the education system allowing creationism to be taught in schools are moving through the Capitol, with one appearing to have more hope of reaching the floor than the other.


The "Louisiana Science Education Act" requires that teachers and schools outline an, "objective" strategy for teaching science in the classroom, including theories behind old debates and new developments (evolution, the origins of species, global warming, cloning, etc). The act requires that all teachers instruct on the material provided in the school's science textbook, but that they may use supplemental materials to augment this instruction. This has been repeatedly cited as a way to not only put Creationist theory—the idea that God created the world—in classrooms, but to also introduce material that can undermine the theory of evolution.


Senate Bill 26 sought to repeal this, and though the bill's status shows it is being considered in committee, the truth of the matter is that a vote by the committee has held the bill from the Senate floor. This is the third time that the Senate Education Committee has blocked the bill, so Louisiana's legislators have yet to vote in public on the matter this—or in any previous session—since the act was first passed back in 2008, and signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal.


By the way, here is the Senate Education Committee's page, so you can see who these folks are.  


The National Center for Science Education quoted Jindal's stance from a public interview, saying, "...the Science Education Act says that if a teacher wants to supplement those materials, if the school board is okay with that, if the state school board is okay with that, they can supplement those materials. ... Let's teach them — I've got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism, that people, some people, have these beliefs as well, let's teach them about 'intelligent design'." "What are we scared of?"


Well, what people are scared of is outlined by education activist and former Louisiana school student Zack Kopplin, who said, "The Louisiana Science Education act allows creationism to be stuck in our classrooms through a loophole," Kopplin said during his own TED talk at LSU. "Among the many flaws of this unconstitutional law, the worst is that by miseducating our students and teaching them that 'Creationism' is science will confuse them about the fundamental nature of science, and the scientific method."


Kopplin, who helped found Repeal Creationism, goes on to clarify that science is falsifiable, though collection of information, aggregating it, analyzing and testing a theory—with this testing either confirming or refuting a hypothesis. Science is also ever expanding, with more data creating more questions and opening up more of the Universe to us as a species.


"Creationism meets none of these requirements," Kopplin said. "And teaching our students this though the Louisiana Science Education Act will harm them in all their future endeavors."


While Governor Jindal's comments seem to showcase an open-minded agenda for the classroom, Kopplin paints the picture of a future with real problems—climate change, meteor impacts like the one in Russia earlier this year, etc—problems that people may not be ready to face if not given a solid education, differentiating between science fact and religious doctrine.


And apparently many agree, as the comments spawned by this legislature's failure to move on the legislation have make Louisiana look even worse than before. For instance, this comment was posted under an article Kopplin published this month with the Guardian UK, and comes from a man in California:


"Zack; applaud your gallant efforts and all, but, really, normal Americans have written off Louisiana. Those in that state who wish to live in the 21st Century should seriously consider moving to California."


Finding Balance


And even though SB 26 didn't go all the way, Senate Bill 205 still has a chance to make a small step in the direction of making Louisiana's classrooms constitutionally sound again.


"Present law provides for the Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act which required public schools in the state to give balanced treatment to creation-science and evolution-science in classroom instruction and instructional materials," the Bill's digest says. "Proposed law repeals present law which was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court  (Edwards v. Aguillard)..."


And while the first vote as strongly in favor of moving forward (36-2), that National Center for Education said Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) said that the unconstitutional law should stay "on the books" in case the Supreme Court ever reverses their decision.


The House Education Committee currently has their hands on SB 205. Here is a list of their membership, should any reader want to sound off. (Good night and good luck).


CORRECTION: This story was corrected to reflect that SB 205 was in the hands of the House Education Committee, rather than the Senate.

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