Published by admin on 12 Dec 2012 at 11:26 pm
By Barbara Forrest
On September 10, 2012, the Central Community School System (CCSS) in Central, Louisiana, adopted (1) “A Resolution on Teacher Academic Freedom to Teach Scientific Evidence Regarding Controversial Scientific Subjects” and (2) a policy on “Teacher Academic Freedom in Science Education When Covering Controversial Scientific Subjects.” These long-winded titles are a sure sign that stealth creationism is still alive and well in Louisiana. And the fingerprints of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) are all over this. In fact, the CCSS resolution and policy are the same resolution and policy that the LFF tried to foist off on the state through the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) after the Louisiana Science Education Act was adopted in June 2008. In fact, they are exactly the same — right down to the mistakes and the mendacity.
Since there is quite a bit to this story, our explanation of the creationist conniving in the Central Community School System will be presented in two parts. Here is Part One.
What Happened in Central
On August 27, 2012, the CCSS School Board took up agenda item #12 [pdf] as presented by Superintendent Michael Faulk, “To consider a first reading relative to a Proposed District Science Curriculum Policy. (Mr. Faulk).” On September 10, the board took up the item [pdf] again for final approval: “To consider a Resolution and second reading relative to a Proposed District Science Curriculum Policy. (Mr. Faulk).” The resolution passed unanimously, and the CCSS adopted both the resolution and policy. The policy had been and is still posted [pdf] on the CCSS website.
The Baton Rouge Advocate carried the story the next day: “The Central Community School Board approved a policy Monday that supports its science teachers if they decide to wade into scientific controversies, including teaching students about alternatives to the theory of evolution.” Board member Jim Lloyd, who made the motion to approve the policy, said that “this resolution will give teachers the academic freedom they deserve to teach the controversy where appropriate.” Here we go again: this is all about academic freedom.
This sounds like another case of the usual creationist shenanigans in Louisiana. However, there is a bit more to this episode than the Advocate reporter was aware of at the time.
What Really Happened in Central
Although the only document posted on the CCSS website is the academic freedom policy, the board also approved an academic freedom resolution (annotated versions below). The fingerprints of LFF “consultant” Darrell White are all over both documents, as will be shown shortly. First, however, some background about the local newspaper coverage in Central is interesting. It explains the distorted coverage that we will later point out in Part Two.
The Central City News
First, it is distinctly friendly to the LFF. CCN also covered the LFF’s 2012 Legislative Awards Banquet, a now-annual event. According to LFF director Rev. Gene Mills, the newspaper “was given an exclusive on the story along with photos of the evening!” In other words, CCN was given the exclusive right to photograph Mills’ presentation of awards to legislators who kow-towed to the LFF’s legislative agenda this year. (Readers should check to see whether their respective legislators attended.)
Second, the CCN editor/publisher is Louis “Woody” Jenkins, a longtime Baton Rouge political operative who served in the Louisiana legislature when the 1981 Balanced Treatment of Evolution-Science and Creation-Science in Public School Instruction Act became law. Jenkins supported the law, which the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in its 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard ruling. Jenkins’ views are therefore totally in line with the LFF’s concerning the teaching of creationism in public schools.
[Aside: Jenkins moves in a political circle that includes not only the LFF but also its co-founder Tony Perkins, who now runs the Family Research Council (FRC). The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled the FRC a hate group because of its anti-gay propaganda. (The LFF shares the FRC’s antipathy toward the LGBT community. [See also here (pdf).] As Right Wing Watch points out, “In 1998, Perkins founded the Louisiana Family Forum due to his concern for ‘increasing influence of the homosexual community on public policy issues.’”) That’s not the only sleaze flowing through this clique. In 1996, Perkins and Jenkins got into trouble after Perkins paid David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list when Perkins managed Jenkins’ unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign against Mary Landrieu. Jenkins was also an early chair of the infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the first director of the right-wing Council for National Policy founded by fundamentalist preacher Tim LaHaye.]
We will revisit CCN’s coverage of the CCSS resolution and policy in Part Two. For now, let’s return to the main story.
Back to What Really Happened in Central
In 2008, after passage of the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), the LFF wanted to solidify its control over how the law would be implemented in local school districts. For that, they had to go to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), where their point man was then-BESE member Dale Bayard, who was defeated in the 2011 election. The LFF succeeded in gutting the draft of the policy that BESE eventually adopted in January 2009. But before that, in August 2008 — barely two months after the June 2008 passage of the LSEA — Bayard had introduced an earlier resolution and a policy that Darrell White himself wrote.
The evidence for White’s authorship is the fact that he had posted the template for the proposed 2008 BESE resolution on an “Origins Science” page on his now-defunct website, Judgewhite.com. The resolution template [pdf], entitled “Proposed School Board Policy Science Education,” was on the website in 2005 and is still available at the Internet Archive. The BESE version closely tracked White’s template but bore the title, “Resolution on Teacher Academic Freedom to Teach Scientific Evidence Regarding Controversial Scientific Subjects.” In addition, the resolution was accompanied by a policy statement, “Teacher Academic Freedom in Science Education When Covering Controversial Scientific Subjects,” and a copy of the LSEA. (See below.)
Have you connected the dots yet, readers? The titles of the BESE resolution and policy are the precise titles of the CCSS resolution and policy. White’s template is therefore the common ancestor of both documents! Except for adjustments made to refer to the respective bodies to which they were introduced, the CCSS resolution and policy are virtually identical to those that the LFF intended for adoption by BESE — as we pointed out earlier, right down to the mistakes and mendacity in the original BESE versions. For your information, we provide pdfs of both documents:
- 2008 BESE Academic Freedom Resolution and Policy [pdf], annotated, with an analysis detailing the flaws in the content. The document is from BESE’s official August 21, 2008, minutes. The resolution was introduced on Bayard’s motion and seconded by fellow BESE member (and now board president) Chas Roemer.
- 2012 CCSS Academic Freedom Resolution and Policy [pdf], annotated. Since this resolution and policy are virtually identical to the BESE ones, the analysis included in the BESE document above also applies to this one.
Just to give you a quick idea of the “evolutionary” development of White’s template from his website version, through the BESE version, to the Central version, we present clips from White’s template, the BESE document, and the CCSS document. The line of descent is crystal clear.
For the sake of brevity, since more information will follow in Part Two, let’s look at just one item that is common to all the versions in the clips above. The second “Whereas” supposedly refers to a congressional declaration stipulating that when “topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution),” the public school science curriculum “should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist.” The truth is that Congress “declared” no such thing.
White took this language in his resolution from the infamous (among creationist-watchers) “Santorum Amendment.” This was a “sense of the Senate” resolution that intelligent design (ID) creationism supporter Senator Rick Santorum — as a favor to the Discovery Institute (DI) — slipped into the No Child Left Behind Act just before the Senate voted on it in 2001. (See the coverage by the National Center for Science Education.) Except for Santorum, the senators who voted had no idea that the language was really a Discovery Institute Trojan horse for promoting ID.
The resolution carried no legal force but was designed to create the appearance of congressional approval of DI’s pro-ID agenda. After vociferous objections from the scientific and educational communities, the congressional conference committee stripped the language out of NCLB and placed into the legislative history of the bill. It is not part of the law. Nonetheless, White has rolled out this Trojan horse at every opportunity, such as the 2006 Ouachita Parish “academic freedom” policy [pdf] (see also here), his BESE resolution and policy — and now the CCSS resolution and policy.
The Simple Truth About the CCSS Policy and Resolution
What happened here is pretty obvious: Having failed to get Darrell White’s resolution and policy adopted by BESE in 2008, the LFF just put it in cold storage and used it in Central in 2012, meaning that there was active collaboration between the LFF and the CCSS school board. While there is nothing earthshaking in this news, it does show that the LFF continues its active promotion of creationism in the public schools of Louisiana.
In the upcoming Part Two, we will provide additional analysis of the resolution and policy, as well as of the newspaper coverage by the Central City News. The mistakes and mendacity of the CCSS policy and resolution will then come into even sharper focus.