Thursday, April 17, 2008


Horse Racing

The Louisiana State legislature may have taken itself out of the running for the stupidest deliberative body in the country, leaving the field narrowed to Florida and Missouri.

The original bill by Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa) had read, in relevant part:

A(4) That the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.

[T]eachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.

Neither the Louisiana Department of Education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, superintendent of schools, or school system administrator, nor any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories ... [or] censor or suppress in any way any writing, document, record, or other content of any material which references topics listed in Paragraph A(4) of this Section.
That last part was, of course, quite a "kicker," pretty much allowing any bogus material, such as the Discovery Institute's supplemental "textbook," Explore Evolution, into public school classes in the state. Now, Nevers' bill has apparently evolved to the point that it is a whole new species. Even before today's committee meeting began, Nevers offered a shorter, watered down bill requiring the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to "allow and assist" local teachers and school administrators in efforts to promote "critical thinking skills, logical analysis and open and objective discussion" on subjects including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life and global warming.

On the issue of classroom materials, the bill, after revisions in the committee, allows teachers, with local school board approval, to use supplemental textbooks and materials to help students "understand, analyze, critique and review scientific and critique scientific theories," without reference to any particular subjects. Of course, this does allow for local boards to try to use creationist materials but, as we learned in Dover, boards need no state law to try that. School boards, however, generally have to conduct their business in the open with notice to the public, unlike local school administrators and teachers, and are easier to sue. Certainly, removing the ban on "censorship" of creationist materials greatly reduces the danger of this bill.

Meanwhile, Ronda Storms is riding her mount hard in Florida:

Sen. Ronda Storms repeatedly said the bill would not require the teaching of creationism or intelligent design and that it specifically would prohibit teaching religious doctrine. The Valrico Republican, though, refused to say whether she thought intelligent design is a scientific or religious theory. This is a key question for opponents.

Opponents say her answers indicated the bill would allow the teaching of intelligent design or other religious theories they said masquerade as science. If intelligent design is defined as a scientific theory, it would be acceptable to teach under the measure.

As a physics professor, I fully support you efforts to fight creationist ideas. See the new book on "Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better".
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

. . . . .


How to Support Science Education