Photo illustration by Juliana Jiménez Jaramillo
By Zack Kopplin
When I was a high school senior in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2010, I began a campaign to repeal my state’s “creationism law,” which allows teachers to sneak religion into public school science classes by using materials that criticize evolution. Seventy-eight Nobel laureates and many other prominent scientists and educators have joined me in calling for the repeal of this law, officially known as the Louisiana Science Education Act, and tens of thousands of people have signed petitions against it over the past four years, but so far we’ve failed. Louisiana teachers can still bring religion into public school science classrooms, legally.
The Louisiana State Legislature has voted to keep this law despite repeated challenges, in part because it has a fig leaf: No one has managed to demonstrate what is going on inside Louisiana classrooms. In 2013, as I was testifying before the Louisiana Senate Education Committee in support of a bill to repeal the law, Sen. Conrad Appel, the committee chairman, asked me, “Do you have any evidence of school districts or individual schools that are physically teaching creationism?”
There has been plenty of evidence, but it hasn’t been direct. For example, in Tangipahoa Parish, in 2011, school board member Brett Duncan requested that guidelines be developed “for the review of supplemental materials to be used by teachers for discussing evolution, creationism, and intelligent design.” That same year a pupil progression plan (an outline of what a school district intends to do that year) for Terrebonne Parish said that under the creationism law, teachers will “deliver facts for both arguments”—both evolution and creationism.
Gov. Bobby Jindal was asked about this law by NBC’s Education Nation and said, “I’ve got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism.” That is in fact why he signed the law.
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