Science class in Louisiana

November 20, 2012 • 10:46 pm

by Greg Mayer

Andrew Kaczynski at Buzzfeed notes an AP story about how publicly-supported private schools in Louisiana are not required by state officials to meet state curriculum standards, and combines this with a sample of science textbook pages from (I’m not making this up) BJU Press, which offers “Christ-centered resources for education, edification, and evangelization”. An example:

A sample science textbook page.

It’s not clear from his piece, however, exactly what schools are using these materials. However, even if these schools were held to state standards, that wouldn’t be saying much in Louisiana, which passed its infamous, creationist Louisiana Science Education Act in 2008 (noted earlier by Jerry here at WEIT). A recent (2012) report on science education standards (also noted earlier by Jerry here at WEIT) sums up Louisiana’s condition:

The Louisiana science standards are reasonably challenging and comprehensive, but they suffer from a devastating flaw: Thanks to the state’s 2008 Science Education Act, which promotes creationism instead of science, the standards (especially for biology and life science) are haunted by anti-science influences that threaten biology education in the state.

(The report is especially damning because it comes from an otherwise conservative, anti-public school think tank.)

Efforts to repeal the law were begun almost immediately by Louisiana students and scientists, and have garnered an endorsement from 75 Nobelists. For the latest on the situation in Louisiana, follow the efforts of student Zack Kopplin at Repealing the Louisiana Science Education Act, and the work of the Louisiana Coalition for Science.

65 thoughts on “Science class in Louisiana

  1. Its hard to believe that such an important matter is left to the States, rather than a Federal direction. We are so lucky in Australia, although home schooling is creeping in and of course its he science subjects that suffer.

    1. I’ve come to the conclusion that home schooling should be forbidden. Yes, it’s quite common in biographies of eminent Victorians to read that they were schooled at home, but these days home schooling is usually an attempt to shelter children from facts that the parents don’t like such as “gay people exist”, “evolution is a fact”, and “the earth is several billion years old”. Or to more effectively brainwash them into believing religious nonsense.

      Method: don’t forbid home schooling outright. Instead, insist that anyone proposing to teach their kids at home first has to demonstrate their mastery of both the material to be taught and generally accepted pedagogical techniques for teaching it.

      The other side of this coin is that the public school system has to be a good one, and that will cost the taxpayers money. Really good teachers aren’t exactly thick on the ground.

      1. I’ll take a backseat to no one in deploring the teaching Creationism to our youth. But we might want to exercise a bit of caution before handing government the power to forbid (or to mandate) private conduct. Once a government has that type of power, it has a way of exercising it by unforseen means and of turning that power against those who were so quick to relinquish it because they were certain it would be used solely for benign purposes.

        1. Agreed. With regard to what goes on in the home, we must discern between malice and stupidity. We can try to protect against the former, but the latter is generally not considered the basis for government regulation and laws. Another emerging trend in education is unschooling or non-schooling. These children will face the same obstacles as homeschoolers when pursuing higher education.

          1. What obstacles do you think homeschoolers have when pursuing higher education?

            Among the homeschool graduates I know, none that chose to pursue university had any problems getting into the schools of their choice or getting funding.

            1. Over the past few years, universities have made major progress in guiding home schooled students through the admission process. For many years, there were problems with such things as GPA, class ranking, curriculum such as AP, ACT/GRE scores, letters of reference, etc. California state schools do not accept home schooled students who have had creation-based science curriculum. Many universities expect the equivalent minimum entry curriculum, e.g. 4 years English, 4 years math, 3-4 years science, 3-4 years of a single foreign language, etc., which is more difficult to document for most home schoolers. There are obviously many great home schooled students at fine universities, but there remain some extra challenges regarding the admission process.

  2. This is ridiculous. As for evolutionists believing that man is the highest animal – is this text 50+ yrs old?
    On the bright side, everyone else in the world looks at the States and shakes their heads, so while they grind to a halt, we’ll keep learning.

    1. I wonder what the Chinese have to do to jolt the US out of it’s complacency? The Russians sent a man into space which woke them up, maybe the Chinese will set up a Moon Base! That would be awesome.

        1. In that case, we will probably want to get there first — before the corrupt communist bureaucrats and the plutocratic business-owning pirates can send masses of Chinese peasants there against their will to start despoiling the Martian environment as they have been despoiling the environment of their own homeland.

          The Chinese would be a lot more likely to jolt the U.S. out of its complacency if they started respecting the rule of law and began permitting political dissent and free speech.

    2. @Darwinsdottir be cautious about the sweeping statements you make there. We still have some world-class universities and being a huge country you really can’t assume from one post (and not even a specific school named) that you know what goes on in most classrooms.

  3. Some of the things you write about science texts in the US of A are unbelievable. One would be forgiven to think they are fiction or they get them from Turkey but from the USA!

  4. Reality just doesn’t exist for these people does it. They think that you can believe whatever you like and make the facts fit afterwards. This was what GW Bush’s administration believed too. Scary, very scary.

  5. I’m going to combine quotes from Wolfgang Pauli and Matt Dillahunty (how’s that for a spread?) and call this sort of thing “fractally not even wrong”.

    Who’s with me?

  6. It’s not obvious, but this textbook confirms that the people writing it don’t just not believe evolution, they don’t even try to understand it. I know that’s pretty obvious, but still, there’s a lovely giveaway, if you can spot it.

    It’s the ‘Man is the highest animal’. Not only is this wrong, but the actual ‘evolutionist’ viewpoint is even less favorable. According to evolutionary theory, man is just another animal. Not the highest, just one of the more successful, but still not the ‘highest form of animal’, as such a term is pretty much nonsensical.

    If they really understood evolution, they could paint a less favorable picture without even resorting to strawmen. It’s just astounding that the level of ignorance of these people mean that they can’t even insult us properly.

    1. While most of us here relate to your reaction, I always cringe a bit when it appears in print. Sometimes such words then make the rounds in the creationist world making it even more difficult to help the children ‘escape’.

        1. Of course that is up el hefe, but I am aware of numerous examples of things that were put in print that should have been conveyed orally – can always deny the latter 🙂

  7. I tried once to figure out what Louisiana was doing with the children’s education.

    AFAICT, it was to just completely destroy it. One of the pet hates of the Tea Party and fundie xians is public education. They don’t control it, it takes a lot of tax money, and it teaches people to think, sometimes.

    What really stood out was that there was no accountability for the state tax money going to private religious schools. No standardized state wide testing of private schools.

    If you can’t measure things, you have no idea where you are or where you are going. The state of Louisiana can produce a generation of barely educated people and not even know it.

  8. What does “defining operationally” mean? And what is it doing on the page? It’s as though that box was thrown at the page to make it look more like a textbook.

    1. I would suggest that anyone who teaches science, especially biology, at the high school or college level obtain copies of the BJU Press books. I think you will be astounded at what the private- and home-schooled students are being taught. There is scriptural justification for creation and design from geology to embryology.

      1. Just a point of clarification: Homeschoolers use a wide variety of curriculum choices. BJU is just one, and not particularly popular among the homeschoolers I have experience with.

  9. But what does publicly supported private school mean. That the parents pay tuition and that supports the school or that they are supported by general tax dollars? That difference is pretty big. It’s generally been that private schools set their own curriculum. Especially the religious ones. Not that it’s a good things, it’s just not new.

    1. Louisiana has a school voucher system, where the state government (via taxpayer dollars) gives tuition vouchers to parents with kids at underperforming schools, and these vouchers can be used at ANY school, including religious. Hence “publicly supported private schools.”

      1. As I read it and understood, it was not “any” school but a board of education approved school which requires them to go through an application process and be accredited by a third party, along with other requirements. Non-approved private schools, including non-approved home schools cannot accept or receive the vouchers. None of the states I’ve lived in have voucher programs, so I was completely unaware of this system.

        1. What I meant was it’s not required for private schools to be approved by the school board. If they want to receive the vouchers they must go through an approval process.

        2. That is true — the caveat to that rule being that the list of approved schools is (will be?) quite long, as the standards for approval are so low as to be virtually nonexistent…

  10. The earth is millions of years old.

    Thy try to emphasize how crazy old science believes the Earth to be, and underestimate by a few orders of magnitude. They have no clue what the mainstream scientific position even *is*.

  11. The task is to evaluate whether the writer is writing from a creationist viewpoint or an evolutionist viewpoint.

    Is it the job of a scientist to classify authors of textbooks?

    I’m confused.

    1. As Barry Corbin’s character said in No Country For Old men … “You’re lookin’ at it”

    2. Probably pretty stupid.

      I don’t know if it’s well known, but during the 19th century, many Quakers moved out of the south because they objected to the increasing emphasis on slavery. Not everyone in the south was blind to the evils of the peculiar institution. Just as today, there are many people in the south adamantly opposed to the nutbars that seem to run the place.

  12. “A man who believes God’s record of Creation and history will look at fossils one way.”

    Minus, of course, actually looking at any fossils.

  13. Private schools are not funded by tax dollars, but by parent paid tuition, private grants, and church dollars in some cases. Public schols are not allowed to charge tuition. So I’m confused by the publically suppoerted-private school statement. Some clarification on this would be great, what public funds are they receiving and does this vary state to state, or is it standard across the board. I run a private school and have done so in three different states. State laws vary, but in none of the three states was I ever given or had available to me in any way public funds. One state (TN) actually enforced several regulations that we follow inspite of being privately funded. One regulation included the regular state testing the public school kids take at certain grade levels, which is not a problem, just letting you know how it worked for me. Also, in this case, we had to pay for the tests at our own expense, they were not provided to us free of charge, like the public kids. Again this is fine, I’m just saying we never received any public funds and had to pay for their required testing, or find a way to get it done at our own expense.

    1. If parents are given vouchers from the state to pay for private education instead of public education, that IS tax dollars funding private education. Pretty simple.

      1. Precisely. I think a lot of people are not aware of Louisiana’s new voucher system and are thus confused by the outcry about “publicly funded private schools.”

  14. As a PhD student at Louisiana State University, I can say with great passion that Jindal makes me want to claw out my eyeballs. He has intentionally effectively destroyed public education in this state, and then had the balls to make that public remark about stupidity BY OTHERS in his party. The massive education “reforms” — which his office passed with lightning speed so that the unions could not intervene and the public had little idea what was happening — will hemorrhage funding for public education and give it to private Christian schools, revoke teachers’ tenure and due process rights, and many other effects equally horrendous. The things that Jindal has done to ruin this state should be illegal.

    1. Let’s hope the chickens are coming home on this now, and that Jindal can be hoisted on his statement.

      Perhaps related to this, I recall that 60Min did a piece on a Turkish guy who’s behind a large part of the private school movement, and who IIRC lives somewhat secludedly in rural PA. I wondered at the time if there might be any connection with Jindal.

    2. The things that Jindal has done to ruin this state should be illegal.

      They probably are illegal.

      It’s questionably legal to give public funds to private religious schools. Separation of church and state and all that.

      Of course, this religious money is all going to mostly fundie xian schools that are mostly incompetent.

      The Moslems wanted some of that money to set up Madrassahs. I doubt they will get much.

      In principle Wicccans, Pagans, and atheists could set up their own schools as well and legally, be funded by the state. They can’t discriminate legally between religions.

      This is Louisiana, they are not going to get much money anyway. I’ve always looked at Louisiana as a National Sacrifice Area. We are all grateful that they are wrecking their environment so we can fill up with unleaded regular gasoline.

  15. An interesting side note —
    While the vouchers can legally be used at any school, public or private, at least one Republican in the Louisiana House of Representatives who voted for the bill, Valarie Hodges, apparently realized too late that the bill she voted for can in fact be applied to…*gasp!*…all those thousands of Muslim schools in Louisiana (me: WHAT??!):

    “I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools… Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion. We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

    1. I weep for this country whenever I hear one of our elected officials spout such insane garbage that should be blatantly obvious to any second grade is illegal in our country.

  16. P.S.
    Folks who aren’t familiar with Zack Kopplin really should take Greg’s advice and look him up. He is an amazing kid. He continues to be heavily involved in anti-creationism campaigns and events here in Louisiana, as well as in Texas now that he’s a student at Rice Univ. I keep up with the current events on his Facebook site, which he is constantly updating.

  17. Fascinating. There is not one fact nor theory present on that page. Every single sentence is painfully full of worng, especially the caricature of the modern scientific conclusions.

    I’d cite Poe’s Law, but I fear this actually is “sincere.”


    1. Indeed that’s what struck me. And, of course, the obfuscation of the scientific conclusions is deliberate.


  18. What they teach on American history is equally bad. The impact of the Great Depression is minimized. John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” is dismissed as liberal propaganda.

  19. This kind of instruction will backfire some of the time. Kids are well known to like to dig into “forbidden” things, be it daddy’s stash of condoms or porn, the booze in the locked cabinet, playing with matches, too much candy at stores, you name it. Just put out that the truth about biology is forbidden lore and at least some of the kids will go out of their way to investigate the subject very deeply.

    Maybe. One can hope, no?

  20. This brings up two questions.
    Should you be allowed to teach your children anything that you want?

    If you pay taxes do you have any say in what they get used for, if so how much.

  21. Why am I unsurprised to find that BJU stands for Bob Jones University?

    In a heartbreakingly ironic statement, one of the values they tout on the front page of their site is “critical thinking”.

  22. The earth is “billions” of years old, not “millions”.

    I realize a previous comment pointed this out, but I felt it needed to be mentioned again, a little more blatantly.

  23. Interesting mention of home schools. In Massachusetts (supposedly) there in fact are standards. But I assume someone would have to report the “school” in order to get caught teaching Creationism. Our home schooled neighbor’s kids teaching it although I set them straight at some point. They sort of knew the truth anyway, which was somewhat reassuring.

    I’m surprised more people aren’t petitioning to have every school adhere to better science standards. Although first we’d need to get legislators to know what the hell real science is……

  24. Publicly supported private schools? That’s libertardianism in action! I thought that only happened in Australia and England. I don’t wanna pay taxes, but everyone who does pay ’em needs to send my kids to some expensive crappy private school.

  25. “(People) makes judgements about the evidence of fossils based on (their) beliefs.”

    What they should do is examine the evidence and adjust what they believe accordingly.

    Once again creationists have it backwards.

  26. “Fossil are probably a result of the great Flood recorded in the Bible.”

    Only “probably”. Is this a sign of progress?

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