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Louisiana Creates: New Pro-Intelligent Design Rules for Teachers

15 January 2009 5:44 pm
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Last year, Louisiana passed the Louisiana Science Education Act, a law that many scientists and educators said was a thinly veiled attempt to allow creationism and its variants into the science classroom. On Tuesday, the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted a policy that sharpens those fears, giving teachers license to use materials outside of the regular curriculum to teach "controversial" scientific theories including evolution, origins of life, and global warming. Backers of the law, including the Louisiana Family Forum, say it is intended to foster critical thinking in students. Opponents insist its only purpose is to provide a loophole for creationists to attack the teaching of evolution.

"We fully expect to see the Discovery Institute's book, Explore Evolution, popping up in school districts across the state*," says Barbara Forrest, a philosopher at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank, is a proponent of Intelligent Design. In a statement on the institute's Web site, its education analyst Casey Luskin hailed the new policy as a "victory for Louisiana students and teachers." The policy will now be printed in the Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators, which public school officials use as a guide.

State education officials tasked with translating last year's law into policy drafted a document that explicitly prohibits teachers from teaching intelligent design, but on 2 December, board members deferred a scheduled vote. Forrest says the advocates of the law used the delay to pressure education officials to remove that language and a disclaimer saying that religion should not be taught under the guise of critical thinking. On 13 January, the 11-member board unanimously approved a policy that contains no such caveats.

Education officials have defended the revision, arguing that it already includes language barring the use of materials that promote any religious doctrine. But Patsye Peebles, a retired science teacher who served on a committee that helped the education department draft the original policy language, thinks otherwise. "The creationists got what they wanted. We will have to redouble our efforts to educate our teachers and get them to teach good science," Peebles says.

(*This item has been corrected. The original item quoted Forrest incorrectly.)

Go here for the Discovery Institute's take.

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