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Louisiana school science - your support needed please

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A rare and welcome good news story - but please give your support if you can to ensure that Zach's splendid work is not undone in the next few weeks.

In a rare and extraordinary moment last week when logic and reason won out against typical Louisiana politics, a panel of educators voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the state continue to use life science textbooks that cover evolution honestly and accurately--even in the face of creationists who strongly opposed this action.

As a high school senior (Baton Rouge Magnet High School, Class of 2011), I have been appalled by the attacks on evolution that have been taking place in our state for the last couple years.

When I learned that for the first time in seven years a meeting of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (BESE) Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council had been called for the purpose of reviewing life science textbooks, I knew something was up and that I had to speak out. Here is a copy of the testimony I gave at the meeting of the Advisory Council.

I anticipated that the creationists would attempt to do one of three things. First, they would have loved to get disclaimers into the textbooks warning that the textbook contained information about evolution, which they no doubt would have characterized as “only a theory.” Second, they also would have loved requiring “supplemental materials” to be taught alongside evolution, perhaps those written by Charles Voss, an electrical engineer who is writing critiques of evolution and who also spoke at the meeting. Having read Voss’s materials, which are advertised on the Louisiana Family Forum website, I can assure you they are written to misinform students and raise doubts about evolution in order to promote intelligent design and creationism. Thirdly, I think they were after the ultimate coup: getting the state to adopt textbooks that question the teaching of evolution and recommend intelligent design as a legitimate alternative.

When it was clear that they didn’t have the votes on the council, the creationists' allies on the panel recommended that the state delay the adoption of life science textbooks, rather than endorse the current textbooks for another seven years (textbooks are changed in seven year cycles). They figured delay was better than an outright loss.

But the creationists were not able to defend their positions in front of a group of educators. They voted 8-4 against the objections of Senator Nevers and Rep. Hoffman (sponsors of the Louisiana Science Education Act, which is stealth legislation to promote creationism) to recommend the BESE Board adopt the textbooks without any supplemental materials, disclaimers, changes, and without waiting any more time. They also recommended that BESE listen to all of the wonderful testimony from the students, scientists, and teachers who had attended.

We came out of this with the biggest victory for good science and common sense in Louisiana that we’ve had since 2002.

Unfortunately we have to fight this whole issue again in front of the BESE Board on Dec. 7th and 9th when the final decision gets made. Rather than being in front of a group of sympathetic educators, this time we will be fighting to convince a group of politicians that they should do what is best for the education of their students. That shouldn’t be so hard, should it?

We need all the support we can get and I’m hoping that everyone will tell their friends in Louisiana to come speak out at this meeting.



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