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Lawmakers asked to repeal of Science Education Act

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Written by :Mike Hasten
mhasten@gannett.com 

 

BATON ROUGE — High school students, teachers, scientists and college professors are asking the Legislature to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, which the group says is a misnomer because its goal is to introduce creationism into classrooms.

The act has given Louisiana “an anti-science reputation,” said Baton Rouge Magnet High School senior Zach Kopplin, whose efforts to repeal the law are supported by 72 Nobel laureates around the country.

“Louisiana is addicted to creationism,” he said, recalling a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case that threw out a state law that said creationism could be taught along with evolution.

At the urging of Kopplin and the Louisiana Coalition for Science, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, is handling legislation (SB70) seeking to repeal the act. She and others said just having the law on the books hurts the state.

The law requires the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon request of a local school board, to “allow and assist teachers, principals and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

It says teachers are to instruct students on the material in the standard textbook but they may supplement it with other materials approved by the school board.

The measure has opened the door for creationism to be taught in school, members of the Louisiana Coalition for Science said Thursday in a rally on the state Capitol steps.

They pointed to school board discussions and plans in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes to introduce creationism into the classroom.

The Livingston Parish board postponed its plans to include creationism this year after being advised that it could not afford an expensive lawsuit promised by the ACLU.

Proponents of Nevers’ bill adopted in 2008 said it was needed because teachers were afraid to teach “the controversy” that there’s an alternative to evolution.

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Kevin Carman, dean of the LSU College of Science, said “The controversy to which they refer is a fabrication of their own imagination”» Evolution is as integral to understanding biology as atoms are to understanding chemistry.”

Carman said he and other scientists “urge legislators and Gov. Jindal to do what is right.”

Ian Binns, assistant professor of science education at LSU, said that when he attends national conferences “it’s an absolute embarrassment.”

Binns teaches a science teaching methods class that discusses the Science Education Law.

“I want students to understand what not to do and make them understand about the supplemental materials” that can utilized, he said. “I want to make sure they understand the hidden meaning of the law.”

Among those attending the rally were teachers and professors carrying signs. One said “Teachers Against Teaching Ignorance” and another “Take science education forward to 2025, not back to 1925.”

Repealing the act won’t be an easy task. Sen. Ben Nevers’ SB733, which became Act 473 when signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2008, was coauthored by 25 of 39 senators and 65 of 105 House members.

Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, said “I don’t see any real support on the House side” for repealing the act.

The 1987 court ruling that threw out the old law said it was unconstitutional because it was specifically intended to advance a particular religion. It also held that “teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to school children might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.”

The Science Education Act said it “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.”

Carman said he and other scientists “urge legislators and Gov. Jindal to do what is right.”

Ian Binns, assistant professor of science education at LSU, said that when he attends national conferences “it’s an absolute embarrassment.”

Binns teaches a science teaching methods class that discusses the Science Education Law.

“I want students to understand what not to do and make them understand about the supplemental materials” that can utilized, he said. “I want to make sure they understand the hidden meaning of the law.”

Among those attending the rally were teachers and professors carrying signs. One said “Teachers Against Teaching Ignorance” and another “Take science education forward to 2025, not back to 1925.”

Repealing the act won’t be an easy task. Sen. Ben Nevers’ SB733, which became Act 473 when signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2008, was coauthored by 25 of 39 senators and 65 of 105 House members

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Written by demon53

April 29, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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