NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2011/05/27
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, The effort to repeal Louisiana's antievolution law was stymied in committee. Creationism is officially unwelcome in Britain's new free schools. Previously in Louisiana, the Baton Rouge Advocate endorsed the effort to repeat the state's antievolution law, while Barbara Forrest explained in detail why the effort is necessary.
REPEAL EFFORT FAILS IN COMMITTEE Despite the overwhelming support for SB 70 from scientific and educational organizations around the state and across the country, the Louisiana Senate Education Committee voted 5-1 to shelve the bill on May 26, 2011, according to a blogger for the Baton Rouge Advocate (May 26, 2011). If enacted, SB 70 would have repealed Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, which implemented the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008. As Barbara Forrest recently explained in a column for Louisiana Progress (May 18, 2011), the LSEA "was promoted only by creationists. Neither parents, nor science teachers, nor scientists requested it. No one wanted it except the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a religious organization that lobbies aggressively for its regressive agenda, and the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank in Seattle, Washington, that couldn't care less about Louisiana children." Among those testifying for SB 70 were Zack Kopplin, the Baton Rouge high school student who spearheaded the repeal effort; Ian Binns, a professor of science education at Louisiana State University; the Reverend C. Welton Gaddy (by proxy), the president of The Interfaith Alliance; and Patsye Peebles, a veteran science teacher, recipient of the Louisiana Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and cofounder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science. Among those testifying against the bill were representatives of the Louisiana Family Forum, the radical religious right group that orchestrated the passage of the LSEA, and a representative of Governor Bobby Jindal, who signed the LSEA into law in 2008 despite the exhortation of educators and scientists, including Brown University's Arthur Landy, who expressed his hope that his former student "doesn't do anything that would hold back the next generation of Louisiana's doctors." NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott, who watched the webcast of the hearings, commented, "Listening to the opponents of the repeal bill during this hearing was like listening to old tapes of Henry Morris [of the Institute for Creation Research]. There was even the claim that evolution is dubious because it is 'origin science' -- a notion to be found only in creationist literature." Reflecting on the result of the committee's vote, she expressed disappointment, but emphasized her admiration for Kopplin, the Louisiana Coalition for Science, SB 70's sponsor Karen Carter Peterson (D-District 5), and the host of Louisianans who worked to rally support for the bill. "This is more than anyone ever expected when Zack launched his campaign last fall," she added, "and with such a strong response in favor of repealing the antievolution bill, I feel confident that we haven't heard the last of the attempt to restore the integrity of science education in Louisiana." For the blog post at the Baton Rouge Advocate, visit: http://www.2theadvocate.com/blogs/politicsblog/122679349.html For Forrest's "Respect Requires Repeal," visit: http://www.louisianaprogress.org/WordPress/2011/05/respect-requires-repeal-the-louisiana-science-education-act-of-2008 For Landy's advice to Jindal (PDF), visit: http://lasciencecoalition.org/docs/Release_Jindal_Veto_6.16.08.pdf And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana CREATIONISM BANNED FROM "FREE SCHOOLS" IN BRITAIN "Free school bids from groups advocating creationism and intelligent design as scientific theories will not be approved, according to the first government guidance on the issue," reports the Times Education Supplement (May 20, 2011). The guidelines by which applications to establish free schools are assessed provide, "Creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas must not be taught as valid scientific theories," and a spokesperson for the Department for Children, Education, and Schools told The Telegraph (May 20, 2011) that the Secretary of Education, Michael Gove, "will not accept any academy or free school proposal which plans to teach creationism in the science curriculum or as an alternative to accepted scientific theories." Like charter schools in the United States, "free schools" are established by local groups of parents, teachers, businesses, colleges and universities, and/or non-profit organizations, but funded directly by the government. Allowing free schools was a key point of the Conservative Party's education platform in the 2010 British election. After the present coalition government took office, free schools "were given approval in the Academies Act 2010, which paved the way for existing state primary and secondary schools to become academies," according to the BBC (May 23, 2011). As of May 2011, the Department for Children, Education, and Schools had received 323 proposals from groups wanting to establish a free school; between ten and twenty are expected to open by September 2011. The guidelines were issued just a week after a new campaign -- Creationism In Schools Isn't Science, or CrISIS -- petitioned the government to enforce its stated position on the teaching of creationism. "Creationism is known, and officially acknowledged, to be contrary to scientific fact," the petition argued. "We therefore demand that creationism should not be presented as a valid scientific position, nor creationist websites and resources be promoted, in publicly funded schools or in any youth activities run on publicly funded school premises." Endorsed by the National Secular Society, the religious thinktank Ekklesia, and the British Centre for Science Education, CrISIS was started by a concerned parent, Laura Horner, after a young-earth creationist was invited to speak at her son's school in Exeter. "The guidance is wonderful news and shows the Government taking a step in the right direction," Horner told the Times Education Supplement. "We now expect the ban to be extended to apply to any activity taking place in school." (The new guidelines concern only free schools; in the Exeter case, the creationist speaker was allowed to present his views as scientifically credible in a religious education class in a state school. Since creationism is often discussed in religious education, such classes offer a possible venue for creationism to be improperly presented as scientifically credible.) Roger Stanyard of the British Centre for Science Education told The Telegraph (May 20, 2011) that his organization was "largely happy" with the guidelines, but warned, "It depends how it is implemented. People will always find ways around the rules." For the articles in the Times Education Supplement and The Telegraph, visit: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6082592 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8526161/Creationism-banned-from-free-schools.html For the BBC's article on free schools, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13266290 For the CrISIS petition, visit: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/crisis-creationism-in-schools-isn-t-science.html BATON ROUGE ADVOCATE ENDORSES REPEAL EFFORT The Baton Rouge Advocate endorsed the repeal of Louisiana's antievolution law, editorially writing (May 23, 2011), "We hope the Louisiana Legislature takes the opportunity it has this year to repeal entirely the misnamed 'Louisiana Science Education Act.'" The Advocate thus joins the New Orleans City Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Louisiana Science Teachers Association, and forty-three Nobel laureates in calling for a repeal of what the newspaper termed "an embarrassment for our state." Interestingly, the Advocate focused on "a facet of the 'Louisiana Science Education Act' that goes beyond the crackpot notion that the theory of evolution is somehow flawed": its reference to global warming and human cloning. "What this country's students do not need is to transplant the mythology of creationism as a persecuted science into other fields, such as climatology or genetics," the editorial observed, worrying that "inaccuracy based on political pressure could be replicated as it has in the evolution debate. ... It could harm education more than just in biology classrooms." For the Baton Rouge Advocate's editorial, visit: http://www.2theadvocate.com/opinion/Our-views-for-May-23-2011-2.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana "RESPECT REQUIRES REPEAL" Barbara Forrest explains the murky origins and adverse effects of the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act -- and argues that respect for the integrity of science education requires a repeal of the antievolution law -- in a long essay posted at the Louisiana Progress website on May 18, 2011. "This law was promoted only by creationists," Forrest recounts. "Neither parents, nor science teachers, nor scientists requested it. No one wanted it except the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a religious organization that lobbies aggressively for its regressive agenda, and the Discovery Institute (DI), a creationist think tank in Seattle, Washington, that couldn't care less about Louisiana children." "Besides damaging Louisiana's already tattered reputation concerning public education," Forrest continues, "the LSEA has done tangible harm, the most compelling example being the SICB boycott" -- where the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology boycotted New Orleans in favor of Salt Lake City for its 2011 meeting, with the cost to the city estimated at 2.7 million dollars. Perhaps worse, antievolutionists have not only sought to undermine the law's provision allowing challenges to unsuitable supplementary materials but also invoked the law to support proposals to teach creationism in the public schools of at least two parishes (Livingston and Tangipahoa) and to attack the treatment of evolution in biology textbooks proposed for adoption by the state. Forrest concludes, "If the legislature and Gov. Jindal truly want to make Louisiana a great place to live and raise a family rather than merely a colorful tourist attraction and the object of catastrophe-induced pity, the legislature must repeal this law." Senate Bill 70, which would do so, is currently scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on May 26, 2011, according to Zack Kopplin of Repeal Creationism. A member of NCSE's board of directors, Forrest is Professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science. Louisiana Progress informs, engages, and mobilizes community leaders, activists, advocates, and policymakers to lead Louisiana into the 21st century. For Forrest's "Respect Requires Repeal," visit: http://www.louisianaprogress.org/WordPress/2011/05/respect-requires-repeal-the-louisiana-science-education-act-of-2008 For the Repeal Creationism and Louisiana Coalition for Science websites, visit: http://www.repealcreationism.com/ http://lasciencecoalition.org/ And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/join