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Louisiana Science Education Act Celebrates Its Tenth Anniversary

Sarah Chaffee

Louisiana

Today the Louisiana Science Education Act (or LSEA) turns ten years old. The LSEA demonstrates that we don’t have to teach evolution dogmatically in public schools; we can teach it objectively, acquainting  students with the methods of weighing evidence through scientific inquiry.

At the time of passage, some insisted it would never work out this way. They were wrong.

A Look Back

Here’s an article from the Shreveport Times, from May 28, 2008, by Alan I. Leshner, former CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He addressed the Louisiana Science Education Act. He noted:

If the Louisiana bill becomes law, we are confident it would be overturned in court. But the fight would be an expensive, divisive distraction. 

The LSEA, which was based on model academic freedom legislation by the Center for Science & Culture, was enacted the next month. It gave teachers the freedom to discuss both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory without fear of retaliation. 

More and Better Instruction About Science

Though critics led by activist Zack Kopplin relentlessly and falsely sought to depict the LSEA as permitting instruction about “creationism,” a religious doctrine, it explicitly did not permit teaching religion. Nor did it authorize talking about a rival scientific theory, intelligent design. Rather, it called for “critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied.” In other words, not “science denial” but more and better instruction about science, including evolution.

Now it’s 2018, ten years later. The people of Louisiana seem content with the act.

A New Role for Zack Kopplin

There have been no court battles. Mr. Kopplin, after a years-long media campaign for repeal, has moved on to other issues. I see the former student and freelancer has taken a job with the Government Accountability Project, an organization that protects whistleblowers. Good for him! Protecting employees in government schools when they speak up about science is a key objective of the LSEA.

Nor have there been any lawsuits for Tennessee’s similar law (2012), now on the books for six years. All this should be an encouragement to other states and localities to do a favor to teachers, students, and the cause of improved science education. 

Want to learn more  and take action? The Free Science website is a good place to start.

Photo credit: Louisiana State Capitol, by Antrell Williams, via Flickr.