Education Icon Education
Evolution Icon Evolution
Free Speech Icon Free Speech

Darwinist Groups Stumbling Over Academic Freedom in Ouachita

As we recently reported, the Ouachita Parish School Board in Monroe, Louisiana, has passed a policy protecting Academic Freedom to Teach Scientific Evidence Regarding Controversial Scientific Subjects. The policy observes that “some teachers may be unsure of the district’s expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects” and guarantees teachers the academic freedom to teach both scientific strengths and weaknesses of controversial scientific subjects:

Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.

What could be less objectionable? Indeed, according to an article in the News Star in Monroe, Louisiana, a local attorney for the ACLU conceded that “On its face, it is not objectionable.” So in order to attack the policy, he had to invent assertions that equate teaching scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution with inserting religion into schools:

[Charles] Kincade said that the policy itself is very innocuous and vague in its language. “On its face, it is not objectionable, but in reality, it is people trying to get a foothold on religion in schools.”

(“School Board Commended for Science Education” by Barbara Leader (Page 1B), News Star, December 1, 2006)

Barry Lynn similarly jumped to the conclusion that the policy is really “an underhanded way to undercut the theory of evolution” and claimed, “There isn’t a scientific controversy. There’s a religious one.”

But of course both Lynn’s and Kincade’s organizations (Americans United and the ACLU, respectively) have already agreed that “any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught.” (See Religion In The Public Schools: A Joint Statement Of Current Law.) Ouachita’s resolution recognizes this fact, writing that “diverse organizations including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and American Civil Liberties Union have acknowledged that ‘any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught’.” And Ouachita’s policy sanctions nothing more and nothing less than what these Darwinists groups already supposedly supported.

There are legitimate scientific criticisms of key aspects of Neo-Darwinism, and teaching them would improve scientific instruction over controversial subjects like evolution. But apparently for critics of the policy like Barry Lynn and Charles Kincade, freedom of inquiry and academic freedom should not be given to students and teachers if it might not fully and wholly support Neo-Darwinism. Where is American United and the ACLU’s support for academic freedom now?

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.