April 30 – Fly flags for Louisiana Statehood

April 30, 2013

U.S. and Louisiana flags both should fly in Louisiana today.  Photo by Jack and Joann

U.S. and Louisiana flags both should fly in Louisiana today. Photo by Jack and Joann

Flags out in Louisiana today?  Under the U.S. Flag code, Louisianans (and anyone else so inclined) should fly their U.S. flags on April 30 in honor of Louisiana’s statehood, achieved on April 30, 1812.

On April 30, 1812, the United States admitted Louisiana as the 18th state into the Union. Louisiana was the first state to have a majority Catholic French- and Spanish-speaking population, reflecting its origins as a colony under France from 1699-1763 and Spain from 1763-1803. Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Louisiana’s road to statehood was not all smooth. Federal law required citizens of a newly admitted territory to apply to congress for statehood, and the admission of the Orleans Territory as the 18th state followed years of lobbying efforts by prominent citizens—both American and Creole (French-speaking Catholics). Men such as French-born congressman Julien Poydras and American attorney Edward Livingston sought the greater political rights that statehood bestowed and convinced Territorial Governor William C.C. Claiborne that the Orleans Territory qualified for statehood. Finally in 1811, Democratic President James Madison signed the bill allowing the people of Louisiana to form a state constitution. Following the state constitutional convention in New Orleans where 43 American and Creole leaders convened, on April 14, 1812, President Madison signed the bill approving statehood. The bill designated April 30, 1812, as the day of formal admission.

Seriously, where would the U.S. be without the stories of Huey Long, and without Tobasco Sauce?

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Map of the states and territories of the Unite...

Map of the states and territories of the United States as it was from April 1812 to May 1812. On April 30 1812, most of Orleans Territory was admitted as the state of Louisiana. On May 12 1812, the federal government assigned its annexed land of West Florida to Mississippi Territory. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the U.S. National Archives: Joint Credentials for the State of Louisiana's First Senators, September 3, 1812

From the U.S. National Archives: Joint Credentials for the State of Louisiana’s First Senators, September 3, 1812 On September 3, 1812 Louisiana’s legislature elected Jean Noel Destréhan and Allan Bowie Magruder to serve as the new state’s first U.S. Senators. Destréhan resigned before being seated and was replaced by Thomas Posey. RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate


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?


Constitutional drama, under our noses, off the radar

May 2, 2010

What about that impeachment trial, eh?  Planning to watch it?

Your best bet might be C-SPAN, but I wouldn’t wager the mortgage were I you.

Impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in the U.S. Senate, 1868; from Harper's Weekly, April 11, 1868 - public domain

Impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in the U.S. Senate, 1868; from Harper's Weekly, April 11, 1868 - public domain

Federal Judge Thomas Porteous of New Orleans got four articles of impeachment approved against him by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 10.  The first article got a nearly unanimous vote — who says the House is divided? — 412 to 0.  Three other articles got similar margins, 410-0, 416-0, and 423-0.

Unless you live in New Orleans or have a strange fascination for that great newspaper, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, you probably heard nothing about this great Constitutional drama. If you get the Times-Picayune, you’ve had good coverage of the issue so far.

Under its own special rules of impeachment, the Senate appointed a committee led by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, which will hold the actual trial and report results to the full Senate for action.  Sen. McCaskill said she expects the trial to begin in early August, and that the report to the full Senate could come as soon as September.

While news media and bloggers chase ghosts and hoaxes, real work continues in Washington, D.C.  You just don’t hear much about it.

You likely have not heard of Judge Proteous’s troubles, though they are long-standing, because the issue was a local, Louisiana and New Orleans affair.  Heaven knows New Orleans has had its share of other stories to knock off the front pages the ethical lapses of a sitting federal judge who was once a promising attorney.

Should you have heard?  How can we judge?  Should we not be concerned when a relatively important story is not only bumped to the back pages of newspapers, but bumped completely out of them, and off the radar of people who need to be informed about how well our government works?

My alert to this story came through a back-door route.  On the list-serv for AP Government, someone asked who presides at the impeachment trial of the Chief Justice — remember, the Constitution spells out that the Chief Justice is the presiding officer in the impeachment of the President or Vice President.  My memory is that the Senate rules on impeachments, and there is a committee that effectively presides, and that the impeachment of a Vice President or President merits special attention because the Vice President is the official, Constitutionally-mentioned presiding officer.  We can’t have the vice president presiding at the trial of himself or herself, nor of the president.  Looking up impeachment procedures, I stumbled across the pending impeachment of Judge Porteous.  I don’t think it has appeared in our local newspaper, The Dallas Morning News.

Other judges have been impeached.  Here in Texas, within the past three years, we had a federal judge impeached, Samuel Kent.  You’d think Texas media would be sensitive to such stories. (Kent resigned before the trial could begin.)

I perceive that media are ignoring several important areas of federal governing, not necessarily intentionally, but instead by being distracted by nonentity stories or stories that just don’t deserve the inflated coverage they get.  Among undercovered areas are the environment, energy research, higher education, foreign aid, management of public lands and justice, including indictments, trials and convictions.  A vast gray hole where should be the news of Judge Porteous’s pending impeachment is just one symptom.

Several news outlets carried stories:

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Alligator bait: Louisiana science teachers, and school boards

August 18, 2008

Louisiana’s state legislature — the legislature that the Supreme Court slapped down in 1987 for trying to introduce religion into science classes in Edwards v. Aguillardrushed through a bill drafted by the deaf-to-the-law Discovery Institute which purports on its face to make it legal for Louisiana science teachers to teach creationism, intelligent design, tarot card reading, UFO-ism, or any other crank science that the teacher feels compelled to offer.

A Louisiana alligator used by c design proponetsist Denyse OLeary to illustrate a blog post about Louisianas litigation bait law on creationism in schools.  Without any appreciation of irony, or as a subtle warning, we cant say.  (photo from The Advocate?)

A Louisiana alligator used by c design proponetsist Denyse O'Leary to illustrate a blog post about Louisiana's litigation bait law on creationism in schools. Without any appreciation of th irony, or as a subtle warning, we can't say. (photo from The Advocate?)

Louisiana’s Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-Mars, rushed to sign the brain-sucker into law, in his ambitious quest to get John McCain to name him as the nominee for vice president. It appears on the surface that Jindal’s national political aspirations will have to wait, but the law he signed requires Louisiana’s school districts to be ready when the students come back in the next few weeks, to do whatever it is they are going to do about creationism and other crank science.

Discovery Institute minions have been hawking creationism wares, and other creationists have offered to put Genesis into the science curriculum — but the law does not authorize those actions or wares itself. Instead, it passes the judgment to local school boards, sort of.

“Sort of.” Words that make a litigator’s heart flutter when talking about to-be-implemented laws! You’d think that, with all the money the Discovery Institute spends to entice legislators and school board members to poke their noses into matters they do not know, DI could spend a few thousands of dollars to get a competent legislative law drafter to draft a workable law. The cheapskates always pay more, Click and Clack say, and here’s another case to prove the point. It would have been difficult to intentionally write a law better intended to get local school boards sued.

A few of us noted the law does not indemnify local school districts against lawsuits if they goof and put religion into science classes. This is important, because the law requires local school districts to step up to the line and have a policy in place by the start of this school year. Which means, if the district doesn’t have the policy written out now, they’re late.

Tony Whitson at Curricublog spent time this summer pondering exactly how the law works, what it requires, and who it requires to act. His analysis — that the law is litigation bait just waiting to snare a local school board, a real “Dover Trap” — is cool, hard, and chilling. Go read it at his blog.

Whitson recommends that the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education get an opinion from the state’s attorney general. This will not comply with the impossible and punishing deadline the legislature established, but it’s a much wiser stewardship of local monies, to try to avoid litigation. Tony wrote:

Taking stock of the situation: To summarize where things now stand, in light of everything above:

The law is by no means so benign as its promoters pretend. It will unleash all manner of chaotic mischief. On the other hand, there is a method to this madness, making it predictable that the perpetrators’ strategy will be to insinuate Exploring Evolution into the state’s (and then other states’) public schools.

BESE and the school districts cannot comply with the statute, which commands that

The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and each city, parish, or other local public school board shall adopt and promulgate the rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of this Section prior to the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.

There are legal requirements (public notice, etc.) for adopting administrative rules for implementing legislation that make it impossible for that to be done by every state and district school board before the new school year begins.

So what can BESE do?

My suggestion is that BESE, at it’s meeting Tuesday, should move to request an opinion from the State Attorney General. They should ask him for an opion advising them, the district Boards of Education, and individual school principals, as to who will be responsible for the costs of defending against litigation for unconstitutional state promotion of religion in the use of supplemental materials. Presumably, if there’s a suit brought directly against BESE itself because of the substance of a text they have approved, then they would be defended by the AG’s office, on behalf of the state (like when the AG hired Wendell Bird as as special assistant for defending the state’s “Balanced Treatment” law). But will the AG commit his office to defending every district, every school, and every teacher whose use of “supplemental materials” is challenged for violation of the First Amendment?

Louisiana’s legislature set a trap for Louisiana science teachers and local school boards — whether intentionally or not is immaterial. Rather than authorize specific material for the curriculum, the new creationism law requires school boards to analyze materials to supplement the science curriculum. The law passes the buck to the local school boards.

So, Louisiana school board members now must become expert on science, and Constitutional law.

Rule of thumb: It costs a school board about $1 million every time they goof and put religion into science classrooms, in litigation costs alone. Louisiana’s legislature didn’t appropriate any money to compensate the school boards.

This law promises to entangle science educators and curriculum, and ensnare local school boards – all of which helps dumb down science achievement and prevent U.S. kids from getting the education they need to compete in a global economy. Alas.


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