Friday, May 2, 2008

Louisiana Senate Sneaks "Academic Freedom" Bill Through

I'm extremely late with this so this post is very long. A lot of links, too. Honestly, I never thought it would amount to anything. Again, I vastly overestimated the intelligence of the LA Legislature. Props to Panda's Thumb and PZ Myers for the links at the end.

Proposed Senate Bill 561 by State Senator Ben Nevers of Bogalusa was to provide that

D. Neither the Louisiana Department of Education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, superintendent of schools, or school system administrator, nor any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator or teacher, in the course and scope of his duties in such capacity, shall censor or suppress in any way any writing, document, record, or other content of any material which references topics listed in Paragraph A(4) of this Section.
Paragraph A(4) states
(4) That the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.
but that, of course,
E. This Section only protects the teaching of scientific information, and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.
Seems fairly reasonable right? Maybe to some, but the Senator had this to say,
The Louisiana Family Forum suggested the bill, Nevers said.

“They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory. This would allow the discussion of scientific facts,” Nevers said.

Such bullshit. I wrote a letter to my senator asking:

  • Why does this focus only on science?
  • Does this also protect history teachers who wish to teach Holocaust denial theory or September 11th conspiracies?
  • Will this bill protect the biology teacher that teaches condom use instead of abstinence?
There were also other criticisms from around the state. :)

In a rare moment of clarity, Louisiana State Senators must have gotten the message. But instead of just pulling the bill entirely, the bill was "re-engrossed" as SB 733, the Louisiana Science Education Act. Motherfucker. Incidentally, can someone tell me how something can be re-engrossed? Once it's engrossed, it's final. That's what that engrossed means. Now it's re-final? Bullshit.

Anyway, then they rammed it through. Unanimously. That story begins with the words "Moving with uncommon speed..." *sigh*

Basically, the new bill says that science teachers can teach science. Thanks for wasting my fucking money on that one guys! There is however, one alarming change(emphasis mine):

C. A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board.

Ignoring the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, State Idiot Nevers had to amend the fucking thing to specifically cite - in B(1) - evolution and the origins of life! Do they think we're stupid? That's a dumb question. Of course we're stupid. We were educated in Louisiana!

So a teacher can teach whatever bullshit, excuse me, "supplemental instructional materials," they want with no guideline as to what should be considered proper materials. The minute some asshole brings an ID pamphlet into the classroom, the ACLU will get involved and even more of my money is in the fucking toilet. Which is fine, because Louisiana has so much to spare. Still no psychiatric hospital in New Orleans (unless you count the prison), but we can waste time and money on this crap. Besides, since the mentally ill are just possessed by demons, bringing God back to the classroom will only help the problem.

And the response? An editorial and a few letters. I'm glad of that, but I'm not sure how effective it is.

The fight has now moved on to the House (HB 1168), where I'm certain it will go through the same contortions and pass unanimously before it is signed into law by our ridiculously pandering governor.

If you live in Louisiana, please please please(!) write AND call your State Representative to express your displeasure at this colossal travesty-in-waiting. If you don't know who that is, you can find out here. If you need help with your letter, go take a look at these links, courtesy of Barbara Forrest. Out-of-state criticism will probably only strengthen their resolve, but I don't see how it could do that much damage at this point.


Anonymous said...

This is bad news. Your suspicion that a lot of taxpayer money will be wasted arguing this in court is probably right on. If I were Keith Olbermann, Louisiana would win the "Worst State in the Union" award tonight.

bullet said...

It wins that almost every night.

DB said...

Great questions to your Senator. Maybe people should start advocating that we teach other asinine things like Holocaust Denial and 9/11 Conspiracy Theories as you pointed out. If we need to "teach the controversy" than it only makes sense.

bullet said...

Thanks, DB. Welcome to the blog.