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From Slate, More Agitprop on Louisiana’s Academic Freedom Law


Here is Zack Kopplin’s new contribution at Slate, “The Bible v. the Constitution,” which he twice promised would cause me to collapse in a catastrophic health reversal at its revelations about Louisiana public schools teaching “creationism.”

Since I’m writing this, the bizarre and ghoulish predictions were evidently mistaken.

The article is Zack’s latest indictment of the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which he’s been campaigning against fruitlessly for years. The law permits teachers in the Pelican State to tell students about evolutionary theory’s scientific strengths and weaknesses, while making clear that it extends no protection to advocating religion.

In the parlance of Darwin activists, which they harp on endlessly, that makes it a “creationist law.” Zack’s last article at Slate mentioned “creationism” only 23 times. The current one bumps that up to 27.

It’s hard to know what to make of some of the private emails from teachers and others that Zack reproduces, which he searched for usages of his favorite scare word. Zack and other Darwin advocates like Josh Rosenau at the National Center for Science Education employ the term “creationism” to mean anything from reciting the text of Genesis in biology class to sharing mainstream science critical of Darwinism, so it wouldn’t be surprising if teachers and officeholders who use the word are confused about its definition.

With the help of friendly media, the language manipulators at the NCSE are responsible for sowing a lot of that confusion. (One teacher whose PowerPoint presentation Zack cites, equating “Intelligent Design” with “Creationism,” even credits the NCSE right under the slide.) Whether guilty of teaching genuine creationism or not, the teachers at least are without guile.

In any event, like other examples of academic freedom legislation, LSEA was written to do one thing — authorize teaching genuine science that might otherwise get a teacher in trouble. If it does that, it does its job.

One teacher writes:

We pray at school functions and probably break the law all the time!! I had to step away from teaching science because of my strong and vocal views supporting Creationism. Now they just somehow come out in Social Studies and I bite my tongue every day when discussing our current government.

This woman seemingly understands that the law forbids using public schools to advocate her faith, but she sounds unconcerned by that fact. She admits to teaching “Creationism,” whatever that means, and was moved out of science instruction because of it.

But what about a teacher who, according to Zack, wrote:

We will read in Genesis and them [sic] some supplemental material debunking various aspects of evolution from which the students will present.

Well that’s one teacher caught in the act of doing something unambiguously wrong, as opposed to throwing around undefined words like “creationism.” Needless to say it isn’t sanctioned by the LSEA.

Obviously, if people abuse LSEA’s authorization, and “break the law,” that’s a problem with the teacher not a problem with the law. People also abuse the U.S. Constitution. That doesn’t mean you toss it out.

Image by Alan D. Wilson, [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.