Thursday, June 02, 2011

Louisiana Continues to Open the Door to “Academic Freedom”

The Louisiana State Senate Education Committee voted on May 27 to kill a bill that would repeal the much maligned SB-70, the “academic freedom” bill that allows teachers to bring additional materials into the classroom to supplement standard curricula in an effort to examine all areas of a scientific topic. Sounds great, huh? Witness Livingston Parrish, where the school board, under cover of the bill, started advocating young earth creationism. According to the current story:
A state Senate committee Thursday rejected a bill to repeal a 2008 law that critics say could change the way evolution is taught in public school classrooms. The measure, Senate Bill 70, failed in the Senate Education Committee. The vote was one for the repeal and five opposed after nearly two hours of discussion. The repeal effort is aimed at the Louisiana Science Education Act, which backers said has paved the way for freewheeling classroom discussions on evolution and other topics. Critics noted that the law has been denounced by the scientific community, including 43 Nobel laureates. “It is fundamentally embarrassing to have the law on the books,” said state Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans and sponsor of the legislation.
Barbara Forrest, as usual, put a fine point on this legislation:
This law 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.
While I think this is, perhaps harsh in its characterization of the LFF, it is true that it lobbies for young earth creationism, which is the matter at hand. Her section on how the LFF got involved and its attitudes toward evolution is particularly insightful. The 2theAdvocate story also notes:
Senate Education Committee Chairman Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa and chief sponsor of the law under fire, said the measures requires that supplemental materials brought into science classrooms have to be supported by empirical evidence.
That is a smokescreen. Sites like the ICR and AiG would not exist if they didn't think they had empirical evidence for the young-earth model. That the evidence consists of warrantless extrapolations of local events to global ones or distortions of the fossil record and genetics, is of little matter in this debate.

As the NCSE's commentary notes, this effort to repeal SB 70 was the brainchild of high school student Zack Kopplin and was taken up by other supporters. It was a momentous task which was, given the current climate, perhaps doomed to failure.

Once again, the only “no” vote was from a democrat and the five “yes” votes were from republicans. My conviction that I need to be politically an independent is growing.

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