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A Trojan Horse for Creationism

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Posted on Mar 8, 2013
roberthuffstutter (CC BY 2.0)

By Zack Kopplin

(Page 2)

Several parishes in Louisiana have attempted to use the act to go beyond supplemental materials and make creationism a core part of their science curriculum. When the director of curriculum for Livingston Parish Public Schools said the law “deals with creationism and the teaching of it in the schools,” a school board member responded:

“Every one of us (board members) sitting up here believes in creationism. We just sit up here and let them teach evolution and not take a stand about creationism. To me, how come we don’t look into this as people who are strong Christians and see what we can do to teach creationism in schools?”

With all of this evidence exposing the purpose of the law, one question remains: Why hasn’t anyone been held accountable for teaching creationism?

The Louisiana act was designed to be hard to challenge. It is written to follow the letter of the law, based on court rulings, but not the spirit.

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If students realize that creationist supplemental materials violate their rights and want to try to end their use, they have to appeal to a review committee that is stacked against them. That’s because the student who is making the complaint is allowed to select only one of the panel’s judges, while the publisher of the supplemental materials, the teacher and the Jindal administration’s Department of Education together get to pick the four other judges who decide the matter.

Louisiana’s law is even harder to monitor from outside the school district. There is no standard curriculum or uniform use of the materials, so it is difficult to discern which schools are using which books and to file public records requests. “Textaddons,” a fully debunked supplemental material that has been promoted by the Louisiana Family Forum for science classes in the state, illustrates the creationism proponents’ covert nature. On the forum’s website, the “Textaddons” publisher stipulates that those who want to order a copy must supply their school’s name and their personal residence, noting “I will mail only to a home address.” This kind of secretive marketing makes it tricky for schools to know what their teachers are teaching.

As a senior in high school, I began a campaign to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act. The effort now has the support of 78 Nobel laureate scientists, major science groups and thousands of students, clergy and teachers.

We’ve made slow progress; members of the state’s Senate Education Committee voted down our bill to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act last spring, but we will be back to advocate on the matter again when the legislative session resumes in April.

As we fight to strike down Louisiana’s law, creationism legislation continues to spread. Tennessee passed a copycat law last spring. The Discovery Institute’s model bill is informing creationists across the country. Anti-science legislation has already been rejected in Montana, Indiana, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona this year, but we are still facing it in Texas and Missouri.

Creationists in Oklahoma have had one bill defeated, but haven’t given up. A second creationism bill has already been approved by the Education Committee in the state’s House of Representatives and is being considered by the full chamber. Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education pointed out to me that their state has introduced more creationism bills than any other, with 26 measures in the last 13 years (roughly one-sixth of all such legislation proposed nationwide in that period). Just like Louisiana’s legislators, Oklahoma’s lawmakers can’t seem to resist creationism.

Stealth creationism is in vogue. As my mentor Dr. Barbara Forrest titled it after the Kitzmiller trial, this legislation is a trojan horse. Make no mistake about these laws: They are not written to help students think critically. They are crafted to evade court rulings and sneak creationism into public schools.

Zack Kopplin is a science education advocate and winner of the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in Education and the National Center for Science Education’s Friend of Darwin Award.


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