Louisiana plans to use vouchers to teach creationism

July 27, 2012

News from the National Center for Science Education — I get e-mail, and it’s probably best to pass it along quickly, unedited, except for links in the text of the article, and the photo of Zack Kopplin, which I added:

VOUCHERS FOR CREATIONISM IN LOUISIANA?

Louisiana is about to spend almost twelve million dollars to fund the teaching of creationism, charges Zack Kopplin, famous for organizing the effort to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act. In Kopplin’s sights now is a controversial new voucher program in the state that uses public school funds to pay for tuition and certain fees at private schools for students who attend low-performing public schools and whose family income is below 250% of the federal poverty level. When the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education considered a set of accountability guidelines for such private schools at its July 24, 2012, meeting, Kopplin testified that of the roughly 6600 spaces available for students under the program, 1350 will be filled, as the Lafayette Independent Weekly(July 26, 2012) described it, “at private Christian schools that teach creationism and peg evolution as ‘false science.’”

Zack Kopplin, brave teen fighting for good science education in Louisiana

Zack Kopplin, brave teen fighting for good science education in Louisiana

According to the Alexandria Town Talk (July 25, 2012), “A number of the schools on the voucher list teach creationism, a doctrine that holds that God created all life out of nothing, and either don’t mention the theory of evolution or teach that it is false science. State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education [BESE] policy on teaching science requires that public schools teach what is in textbooks but they can supplement with BESE-approved material to promote ‘critical thinking’ on alternatives to evolution.” Superintendent of Education John C. White told the newspaper that BESE had approved the curriculum for all of the schools. “Not teaching evolution could show up in the required state testing for students receiving vouchers, he said, and there could be repercussions ‘if a school shows a fundamental disregard’ for conducting the test.”

Writing earlier in the New Orleans Times-Picayune (July 18, 2012) about Kopplin’s research on the private schools expected to receive new students through the voucher program, columnist James Gill commented, “It is impossible to prepare fully for such a massive reform as going voucher, and some undeserving private schools are bound to receive an OK from harried state officials. But a religious takeover on this scale cannot be accidental. Of the schools on Zack Kopplin’s list, one believes that scientists are ‘sinful men,’ and declares its view ‘on the age of the earth and other issues is that any theory that goes against God’s word is in error.’ Another avers that evolution is ‘extremely damaging to children individually and to society as a whole.’ A third tells students to write an essay explaining how ‘the complexity of a cell shows it must be purposefully designed.’ And so it goes.”

The creationist instructional material used by such schools include textbooks from Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books — which were described by the University of California system in the ACSI v. Stearns case as “inappropriate for use as primary texts in college preparatory science courses due to their characterizations of religious doctrine as scientific evidence, scientific inaccuracies, failure to encourage critical thinking, and overall un-scientific approach” — and Accelerated Christian Education. A textbook from ACE that argued against evolution on the grounds that the Loch Ness monster not only exists but also is a living plesiosaur (incorrectly described as a dinosaur) understandably attracted the attention of The Scotsman (June 25, 2012) and was widely ridiculed nationally and internationally.

The voucher program is presently under legal challenge from the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers along with a number of local school boards. But the issue of the state’s funding the teaching of creationism is not part of the challenge. Rather, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune (July 10, 2012) explained, “Two key issues are at play in the voucher suit: whether providing private schools with money from the Minimum Foundation Program violates the [Louisiana state] constitution by redirecting those funds from public schools, and whether a last-minute vote setting the new MFP formula in place received enough support in the state House to carry the force of law.” The state will be allowed to implement the voucher program while the challenge works its way through the court system, the newspaper reported.

For the article in the Lafayette Independent Weekly, visit:
http://www.theind.com/news/11055-kopplin-state-paying-116m-to-schools-teaching-creationism

For the article in the Alexandria Town Talk, visit:
http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20120725/NEWS01/120725003/Louisiana-vouchers-going-mainly-church-affiliated-schools

For James Gill’s column in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, visit:
http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2012/07/vouchers_are_a_creationists_be.html

For NCSE’s collection of material from ACSI v. Stearns, visit:
http://ncse.com/creationism/legal/acsi-v-stearns

For the article in The Scotsman, visit:
http://www.scotsman.com/news/odd/loch-ness-monster-cited-by-us-schools-as-evidence-that-evolution-is-myth-1-2373903

For the article on the challenge to the voucher program in the New
Orleans Times-Picayune, visit:
http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/07/judge_denies_injunction_in_vou.html

And for NCSE’s previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit:
http://ncse.com/news/louisiana

With all the troubles Louisiana has, with rebuilding from storms, a dysfunctional food distribution system, a dysfunctional health care distribution system, clean up from the Gulf oil spill of 2010, and erosion problems especially in the Gulf bordering parishes, why is Louisiana wasting time and brain power on creationism?


Meanwhile, in the evolution debates, where we find the Mother of All Denialism . . .

June 29, 2011

Other fronts in the War on Education may have earned more attention here in the Bathtub, lately — and in state legislatures.  Threats from the dilution and elimination of good, hard science courses continue to pose problems, especially from creationists and their shyer, camouflage troops from the Chapel of Intelligent Design.

We need to stay aware of the creationist/creationism threat.  At its heart, creationism requires adherents to reject the facts of science, to reject the workings of science, and to reject the functions of debate about what is real, and what is not.  It is to me a rather simple discussion of the quality of evidence.

Eugenie Scott and her colleagues from the National Center for Science Education provide a great update in what is going on, with a great video, and an informative and troubling explanation of the links between creationism and the “unbelievers” in climate change.

Be sure to watch the first ten minutes, to see the video update on the fight to keep good science education in schools, especially the teaching of evolution.


Eugenie Scott defends science, education, and evolution, in the Bone Room

February 5, 2010

It’s 30 minutes, and 30 minutes well-spent.


What is a kilosteve? Buy the t-shirt, find out

October 24, 2009

You can get your kilosteve t-shirt here.

Why would you want one?

Every scientist named Steve should have one -- and so should you!

Every scientist named Steve should have one -- and so should you! (Front)

Because it puts you in the company of distinguished scientists who stoutly defend the teaching of good science to children, so they can go on to become great scientists themselves.

Plus, it’s a poke in the eye to the Texas State Board of Education, none of whom are named Steve, and few of whom would be invited to sign on if they were.

Here’s the back of the shirt:

KiloSteve t-shirt, back side.  1,099 total Steves. (Back)

KiloSteve t-shirt, back side. 1,099 total Steves. (Back)

A kilosteve is a thousand Steves.

Creationists fondly distributed a list of scientists who, they claimed, question whether the theory of evolution is accurate.  The anti-science Discovery Institute in Seattle distributed the list starting in about 2001, with a few hundred names.

To claims that many scientists opposed teaching evolution, NCSE created a list of scientists who support teaching evolution theory — but limiting that list to scientists with the first name “Steve,” or a derivative of Steve.  About 1% of people in the English-speaking world have such a name — so the fact that more scientists named Steve sign the list supporting evolution, than those of all names who sign the list denying it, means that the Discovery Institute list represents less than 1% of all scientists.

A comparison of the lists is always instructive.  In 2003 I started phoning people listed on the Discovery Institute list; of the first 20 I called, ten denied having signed any petition against evolution.  One demanded his name be removed.  Five made a modest defense of being skeptical of evolution, but none of them were biologists, and none had any publications which questioned any part of evolution in any way.

NCSE started the project in 2003, not long after the death of Stephen Jay Gould, the staunch defender of science and evolution who was the main witness in the first creationism trial, in Arkansas in 1981.  It’s a fitting memorial to a fine teacher.

Eugenie Scott heads up NCSE.  In an e-mail this week to members of Texas Citizens for Science, who were discussing the kilosteve shirt, she noted it has already spread overseas.

Just wanted you to know that when I gave my talk at Cambridge University Tuesday, Steve #800 walked into the lecture room wearing his kilosteve shirt.

A proud moment!

(Of course I threw open my arms and said in a cheery voice, “STEVE!!!”)

It almost makes one wish one’s name were Steve.  (One also may wonder, who is Steve #800?) The shirt’s a great buy, especially considering that for the price of a kilosteve, one actually gets 1.099 kilosteves.  (As of today, there are 1,118 Steves who have signed the list.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula, which noted the achievement of the kilosteve when it actually happened, and to Texas Citizens for Science, just for the heck of it..

You came to this blog, and all you got was a plug for a lousy t-shirt; share your displeasure:

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