The state of Louisiana is doing everything it can to force feed its students creationism despite numerous constitutional restrictions that prevent religious activities in public schools. It also passed the Academic Freedom Act in 2008 which allows “science” teachers to teach creationism as a “theory” equivalent to evolution to students. Of course, I also discussed how Louisiana provides vouchers for students to attend private Christian universities, some of which use textbooks that think a real Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution.
According to an article in the the Lafayette, LA Independent Weekly, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education considered a set of accountability guidelines for private schools at its July 24, 2012, meeting. Zack Kopplin, “an 18-year-old Rice University student best known for his efforts during the last two legislative sessions to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, was one of several people who addressed BESE recently in opposition of the controversial voucher program”, testified that of the roughly 6600 spaces available for students under the program, 1350 will be filled “at private Christian schools that teach creationism and peg evolution as ‘false science.’” Kopplin claims that Louisiana is about to spend almost $12 million to fund the teaching of creationism through this new voucher program 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.
According to the Alexandria Town Talk, “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 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.”
Also according to the article, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John C. White told the newspaper that the 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.”
James Gill, a columnist at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, suggested that,
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.
Louisiana’s largest teachers groups, the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers along with several school boards, have filed lawsuits against the voucher program. They recently failed to get an injunction to suspend the program, but as the New Orleans Times-Picayune 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.”
It is sad that a state uses taxpayer money to help teach students about the imaginary Loch Ness Monster to help them understand the pseudoscientific religious belief of creationism.