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By  Barbara Forrest

The year 2011 is about to end, and this gives the Louisiana Coalition for Science (LCFS) a chance to highlight two cool things:  (1) a new article by LCFS member Dr. Ian Binns entitled “Battle over Science in Louisiana” published in (2) Reports of the National Center for Science Education (RNCSE, pronounced “rensee”), which is now freely available online. (The Binns article is here [pdf].) Until recently, Dr. Binns was a science educator at Louisiana State University; he is now at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Throughout 2010-2011, he was an integral participant in LCFS’s successful effort to protect the selection of state-approved biology textbooks, and he took the lead in our successful effort to block the passage of HB 580, which would have undermined state oversight of school districts’ purchase of science materials. In the November-December 2011 issue of RNCSE, Dr. Binns has chronicled the attack on science education that took place after the passage of the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA).

Dr. Binns’s involvement with LCFS’s efforts to protect science education in Louisiana has enabled him to provide a firsthand account of what happened in the wake of the attempt by the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) to undermine public school science education (see here, here, here, and here), an effort in which the LFF has benefited from its close alliance with Bobby Jindal:

[T]his article will focus on several events that started in September 2010 and ended in June 2011 and use those events as evidence for the continued attempts by the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), the state affiliate of the religious right organization Focus on the Family, and others to redefine science in order to serve their narrow agenda.

Among other things, Binns focuses on the LFF’s attack on the textbook selection process, an attack that was centered around the LFF’s effort to change the definition of science: “Since this process was open to public comments, it provided another opportunity for opponents to attempt to redefine science.” If the LFF had got its way, science would have been redefined to include the supernatural. LFF operatives also used the same tactic of trying to disguise their creationism that they used in promoting the LSEA in 2008:

The main players [who submitted public comments on the textbooks that were recommended by the Textbook Review Committee], led by Darrell White, never mentioned anything about creationism or intelligent design’. Instead, they focused on what they called the ‘weaknesses of evolution’. [hyperlink added]

The LFF failed to stop the approval of the books at the level of the Textbook Review Committee, so they next focused on the Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council, which also decided to review the books despite not having met in almost a decade. Binns also focuses on the LFF’s attempt to derail the selection process at the council’s November 12, 2010, meeting:

From this meeting, I was mostly interested in the documents that were distributed by Lennie Ditoro, a supporter of the LFF, during her testimony. Lennie Ditoro worked with the LFF during the previous science textbook adoption in 2002 and has introduced herself as a representative of the LFF Education Resource Council on at least one occasion. [hyperlinks added]

Ditoro distributed a document that misquoted the 1997 Louisiana Science Framework (LSF) [pdf]. In a subtle distortion of the original wording of the LSF, her handout defined science as a “continuing process for extending understanding of the ultimate, unalterable truth,” a definition that reflects Ditoro’s ignorance of the way science actually works (it does not deal with “ultimate, unalterable truth”).

Binns also discusses Ditoro’s involvement in the 2011 effort that Zack Kopplin led to repeal the LSEA. Continuing her emphasis on redefining science, she testified at the Senate Education Committee hearing for Senator Karen Carter Peterson’s SB 70, which would have repealed the LSEA in its entirety if the committee had not deferred action, in effect killing the bill.

Dr. Binns’s article [pdf] is well worth a read. Louisiana citizens should begin the new year with an understanding of the tactics of the state’s leading anti-science organization. The LFF will surely launch future efforts to undermine public school science education. The 2012 legislative session [pdf] is less than three months away. Jindal will be in office for four more years, and he and the LFF are joined at the hip.

 

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