Education Reform: Spotlight Louisiana
The Miami Herald reports this week that lawmakers in Louisiana rejected a challenge from some students, teachers and parents to repeal a 2008 law which allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials in their classrooms in addition to state-approved textbooks.
The Louisiana Science Education Act, passed in 2008 has been criticized by opponents as a subtle if not direct attack on teaching evolution. The provision for supplemental materials usually is feared to include information meant to criticize evolution and support creationism.
This week’s 5-1 decision by the Senate Education Committee striking down repeal of the Louisiana Science Education Act sent a resounding message to opponents, shunning their arguments that allowing for loosely-defined “supplemental materials” creates opportunities for teachers to challenge evolution and teach creationism in classrooms.
Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana supported the bill in 2008 and opposed this week’s move to repeal it.
The state has argued that there are guidelines in place that would ban promotion of religious doctrines in the supplemental materials. These guidelines require that any information presented by teachers be “scientifically sound and supported by empirical evidence,” but scientists are not so convinced. The bill has been hotly debated since its inception, with opponents from the science community including the American Association for the Advancement of Science pitted against proponents such as conservative and religious groups.
For now, interpretation of what is considered acceptable “supplemental materials” in science education is left largely to individual school boards.
The issue of opening up a science curriculum, one that could invite creationism, hasn’t been confined to Louisiana. A different perspective—a potentially religiously-slanted view is a notion that has gone through much debate in Seattle, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Laws designed to incorporate the teaching of creationism in public schools have so far been struck down by the courts in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
So as another state takes on science education, what are your thoughts on an appropriate curriculum?