Published by admin on 28 Dec 2012 at 12:08 am
By Barbara Forrest
In Part One of this account of the Louisiana Family Forum’s (LFF’s) extension of its “academic freedom” agenda into the Central Community School System (CCSS), we provided background information about the resolution and policy that the CCSS school board adopted on September 10, 2012. In short, the CCSS resolution and policy [pdf] are the same stealth creationist resolution and policy [pdf] that the LFF failed to get the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to adopt in August 2008. The resolution and policy were written by LFF creationist Darrell White. Here is what happened:
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.
However, Part One gave only the background of the creationist conniving in the Central Community School System. In Part Two, we provide “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say. This part is fairly long, but it offers detailed evidence of what really happened in Central.
Mistakes and Mendacity
LFF’s recycling of an old resolution and policy intended for adoption by BESE is not surprising. Creationists recycle all the time. After each federal court defeat, they mothball their discredited terminology and strategies until people forget about them. Then, after reinventing themselves and regrouping for their next initiative, they pull them out again to use with school boards and legislative committees. The LFF and their buddies at the Discovery Institute (DI) follow this playbook.
But public school boards should be above such deceptions, as should the media on which citizens depend for news about their children’s schools. This is not the case in Central, where the school board and the Central City News (CCN) violated their civic and professional responsibilities by being complicit in the LFF’s scheme to promote a stealth creationism policy. This is the most important — and disgraceful — part of what happened in Central.
The analysis of the CCSS resolution and policy [pdf] provided in Part One reveals not only the mistakes but the downright mendacity that characterize the CCSS school board’s action on September 10, 2012. Ignorance and dishonesty are routine for the LFF. However, any self-respecting school board should be ashamed of having adopted such a piece of work. The sloppiness and dishonesty of the CCSS resolution clearly show that not a single person in that school system — including Supt. Michael Faulk and the board — even bothered to proofread the document. They adopted it exactly as the LFF handed it to them, mistakes and all.
We will focus on Supt. Faulk, board member Jim Lloyd, and the Central City News (CCN), who appear to have been the pivotal players. We will also encounter Darrell White again, as well as ghosts of creationist connivings past, i.e., the Ouachita Parish School Board and the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF, now “Alliance Defending Freedom“).
The CCSS school board meeting opened with a prayer thanking God for “your son Jesus Christ” (audio here, iTunes mp3). After routine business, Supt. Faulk, saying that “some of the board members reviewed the proposed policy,” announced that “based on that, I’ve prepared for the board a resolution.” He explained that adopting the academic freedom resolution meant also adopting the policy, which had been presented for a first reading on August 27. He then proceeded to read aloud the resolution that Darrell White had actually written for BESE. (Readers can listen here, 6:58-11:11). Faulk himself prepared nothing — unless by “prepared” he meant that he made the photocopy he was reading.
Not only did Faulk not prepare the resolution, he clearly didn’t even proofread it. The evidence for this comes from the Louisiana Department of Education’s (LDOE’s) 1997 Louisiana Science Framework (LSF), to which White’s BESE — and now the CCSS — resolution refers. Faulk read this reference in the resolution exactly the way White wrote it [pdf] (10:18):
WHEREAS, the Louisiana Science Framework at page 12 indicates that science should be presented as a . . . continuing process for extending understanding of the ultimate, unalterable truth . . .
Wait . . . what? The LSF says that science is a process for understanding “ultimate, unalterable truth“? Are the LDoE staff so appallingly ignorant about the nature of science? Or have they insidiously been requiring teachers, who must follow the LSF, to mislead unsuspecting children? Let’s do something really creative — let’s consult the original source!
According to the Louisiana representatives of the Council of State Science Supervisors, both of whom are LDoE professionals, “The original science standards document, Louisiana Science Framework was published in 1997 and contained the standards and benchmarks for Louisiana science content. In 2004, Grade-Level Expectations [GLEs] were added to the standards.” That 1997 document is still available from LDoE here [pdf]. On p. 12, the LSF says this (emphasis added):
Science is presented as a human enterprise and a continuing process for extending understanding, instead of the ultimate, unalterable truth.
Well, one tiny little comma and one tiny little word — “, instead” — certainly make a big difference, don’t they? The LSF correctly specifies that science is a “human enterprise” and clearly indicates that it should NOT be presented as “ultimate, unalterable truth.” Let’s check the November 2005 document [pdf] that includes the GLEs. Maybe that’s where the LDoE staff made their mistake. On p. 4, we find this (emphasis added):
Science is presented as a human enterprise and a continuing process for extending understanding, instead of the ultimate, unalterable truth.
So, the LDoE professionals got it right! We won’t speculate about whether White — a former judge — was (a) dishonest or (b) careless in quoting the LSF (he clearly ignored a basic rule in English 101: “Proofread your work”). However, Faulk himself either didn’t know or didn’t care that he was presenting misinformation about the nature of science — which directly contradicts Louisiana’s mandatory science education guidelines — for inclusion in district instructional policy. Depending on whether he was merely ignorant or willfully deceptive, he should be either embarrassed or ashamed, as should the school board. And doesn’t the CCSS have curriculum and instruction staff who are supposed to check on such things?
Faulk — who is also the 2012 president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents — appears to have a habit of not doing his homework. In April 2012, as reported by WAFB (video) in Baton Rouge, the CCSS board voted unanimously, on Faulk’s recommendation, to hire Al Chapman of Cannelton, Indiana, as principal of Central Middle School. However, only a few days later, they learned that Chapman had been suspended from his job as Cannelton school superintendent for “alleged incompetence and neglect of duty.” Cannelton school board members claimed that “Chapman failed to pay vendors, misapplied proceeds and got the district behind more than a half million dollars in state and local taxes, costing them penalties, interest and attorney fees.”
WAFB reported that Faulk said that “he should have done a better job of checking references.” That realization came a bit late. A Google search that takes all of five seconds turns up news coverage revealing that Chapman had been suspended in November 2011 and was fired in December 2011. Oops!
That episode clearly was not instructive for Supt. Faulk. If he didn’t spend five seconds googling the man to whom he wanted to entrust the administration of a school, he certainly wasn’t going to spend time checking on whether Darrell White’s creationist resolution was accurate. (As the analysis in Part One [pdf] shows, the misinformation runs from beginning to end.) But given the fact that the board meeting opened with an explicitly Christian prayer, we can safely assume that Faulk wouldn’t have cared anyway. Let’s move on to board member Jim Lloyd.
Prior to the board’s vote on the resolution, Jim Lloyd responded (11:38-14:27) to the president’s call for comments. But before we examine Lloyd’s comments, readers should know a few things.
Second, despite having once lived in St. Tammany Parish and admitting that “like Central’s new schools, St. Tammany Public schools were some of the best in the state,” he does not send his own children to public schools. He says that he and his wife home-school their children in order to “teach them our biblical worldview.” His campaign website also states, “Fortunately, having children enrolled in Central schools is not a requirement for serving on the board.” Like LFF executive director Gene Mills, he doesn’t want his own children in public schools, but he has made it his business to influence what other people’s children will be taught in them. He says that being “President o[f] the Board for Christian Home Educators Fellowship of Baton Rouge” gives him “a background in education.” (He is actually in the commercial flooring business.)
Third, explaining “MY ROLE AS A CENTRAL SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER,” Lloyd lists items in the CCSS school board pledge. The following are relevant here:
- . . . I will read the materials sent to board members and ask for additional clarification if I think that I do not have adequate information to make an informed decision. . . .
- I will participate with an open mind and an objective perspective in the consideration of issues before the board.
- When carrying out my roles and responsibilities as a board member, I will put aside my parent role (or any other role I may have in relation to the school system) and my personal agendas and pledge to actively work only toward those decisions and solutions that are in the school system’s best interests.
He added a “personal challenge” for himself: “Ask the hard questions.” Lloyd’s comments show that he did not ask any hard questions about the resolution — or about real science. He did not start out well:
The definition of a theory is something that’s not risen to the state of evidence appropriate to be deemed law. Students should learn why theories have not risen to the level of evidence deemed appropriate to become a law. . . .
Ok, we can stop right here. Lloyd’s very first statements prove that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Point: Scientific theories cannot become laws. The University of California-Berkeley’s Understanding Science website explains this basic concept (emphasis added):
Misconception: If evidence supports a hypothesis, it is upgraded to a theory. If the theory then garners even more support, it may be upgraded to a law.
Correction: Hypotheses cannot become theories and theories cannot become laws. Hypotheses, theories, and laws are all scientific explanations but they differ in breadth, not in level of support. Theories apply to a broader range of phenomena than do hypotheses. . . .
To justify adopting the resolution, Lloyd then invoked President Obama: “Well, America’s president, in his State of the Union address, said that our quality of science education lags behind that of many nations. Foremost among this board’s intentions is to offer Central Community students a premier science education.” (Aside: On his “About” page, Lloyd displays a picture of himself at what looks like a Tea Party rally against the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.” The picture suggests that he doesn’t think much of the president whom he used to support a creationist resolution.)
Lloyd next read language from DI’s Santorum Amendment, which, as noted in Part One, White included in the resolution. By now, readers may be wondering whether White actually wrote Lloyd’s meeting comments as well. We could safely bet the ranch on this. As Lloyd continued speaking, the evidence that he was reading talking points handed to him by someone else steadily increased.
As additional support for the Central resolution, Lloyd cited a 2005 teacher survey by the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, aka “A+PEL,” which is posted here [pdf]. Supposedly, it revealed that A+PEL’s members wanted guidance about teaching “controversial science subjects.” We will have a great deal to say about this in an upcoming post. Until then, suffice it to say that the “survey,” which was engineered by the LFF, is utter hogwash.
Next, Lloyd invoked the 2006 Ouachita Parish (OP) academic freedom policy [pdf], which, he said, “passed constitutional scrutiny by the [OP] board’s legal counsel.” (See background here.) He added that “we do have a letter here tonight from our Ouachita school system, where over twenty-plus teachers have expressed appreciation for the academic freedom that it afforded them by this resolution.”
According to the CCSS central office, the only letter submitted that night was a 2006 letter [pdf] from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF, now Alliance Defending Freedom) to OP Supt. Robert Webber from “J. Michael Johnson, Senior [ADF] Legal Counsel.” Johnson promised Webber “our assistance, free of charge, in defending the [OP] policy if it is adopted and later challenged on its face in a lawsuit.” The ADF’s offer was subject to “first review and approv[al] of the final draft of the policy before it is voted upon by the School Board.” The submission of the OP letter to the CCSS School Board undoubtedly was intended to convey the same message.
Readers may recall that ADF was involved in the LFF’s gutting of BESE’s LSEA implementation policy in January 2009. As we explained in a January 2012 post, “ADF was ready to sue [BESE] if the LFF didn’t get what it wanted. And if board members cooperated . . . , ADF might . . . represent the state in court for free if it got sued by angry science defenders.” LFF got what it wanted, as we know.
Lloyd closed out his comments by reading a much-quote-mined creationist talking point that takes Charles Darwin’s words out of context (see DI’s use of the same Darwin quote here), sounding suspiciously similar to a letter that Darrell White wrote to a Louisiana newspaper. Indeed, Lloyd’s entire presentation literally reeked of White’s influence.
Lloyd violated all of the above points from the CCSS pledge. He did not adequately “read the materials sent to board members and ask for additional clarification” but accepted the resolution and policy as the LFF presented them, and he did not obtain “adequate information to make an informed decision.” He could easily have found the National Center for Science Education on the Internet and asked for their input. He could have contacted the Louisiana Coalition for Science or the Louisiana Science Teachers Association if he had been truly interested in providing the children of Central with “a premier science education.”
The truth is that a premier science education is the last thing Lloyd was concerned to provide. Being an LFF supporter and reading creationist talking points shows that he did not maintain “an open mind and an objective perspective in the consideration of issues before the board.” He clearly did not “put aside [his] parent role (or any other role [he] may have in relation to the school system) and [his] personal agendas.” Just as he undoubtedly teaches creationism to his own children as part of his “biblical worldview,” he used his position to enable CCSS teachers to promote creationism in the instruction of other people’s children.
Central City News
In Part One, we informed readers that the Central City News (CCN) provided local coverage [pdf] of the September 10, 2012, CCSS School Board meeting. CCN’s reporting mirrors the mendacity of the CCSS resolution and policy. The very first sentence in the article is false:
The Central Community School Board adopted a new Science Policy Monday night designed to provide science teachers greater academic freedom, according to school board member Jim Lloyd, who authored the policy.
The policy wasn’t new, and Jim Lloyd didn’t write it, as we have established. CCN was correct about one thing, however: “The policy takes advantage of the Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008, which was passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Jindal.” Indeed, it does. In fact, taking advantage is what the CCSS policy, like the OP policy, is all about: the LSEA is the LFF’s attempt to give legal cover to teachers who want to teach creationism and to school boards that encourage them by adopting “academic freedom” policies.
The CCN article is just as dishonest as Faulk’s and Lloyd’s presentations in another respect: it must have been based on pre-written comments provided to the newspaper because Lloyd didn’t actually say much of what CCN directly attributes to him. Readers can compare Lloyd’s spoken comments (mp3, 11:38-14:27) to the paper’s quotations of him [pdf]. CCN’s article does, however, include DI talking points, which White uses frequently. Here is an illustrative excerpt from the CCN article (with our hyperlinks to DI sources):
A ‘Teach-the-Controversy’ approach helps both advocates and critics of evolutionary theory to have a better understanding of the claims of evolution and its supporting evidence. Teaching this and all subjects objectively means presenting both the scientific evidence for and against each theory.
‘The debate is really about Science vs. Science,’ [Lloyd] said. [Note: Lloyd did not actually make these statements, either.]
White’s good friends at the young-earth creationist organization, Answers in Genesis (he is a lifetime member of AIG’s Creation Museum), obviously drawing heavily from the CCN article, repeated virtually all of the misinformation it contained. This brings us back around full circle to White, who was, by every indication, the chief presence (whether in body or only in spirit is irrelevant) at the CCSS board meeting.
After the CCSS School Board adopted his recycled BESE resolution, White inevitably started crowing. In the September 18, 2012, issue of LFF’s Family Facts newsletter, he announced, “At its Monday evening school board meeting, the Central Community Board of Education took a bold move by unanimously adopting a policy pertaining to the teaching of evolution.” (Although the LSEA also targets global warming and human cloning, its backers’ comments almost always focus only on evolution.) Readers could “Click here for the full article,” which White entitled “Academic Freedom in Central” [pdf].
This document continues the mistakes and mendacity of the CCSS resolution and the CCN article. Like CCN, White attributes to Lloyd verbatim comments that he never said at the meeting.
According to Lloyd, ‘Indoctrinating students on one view, misses a key opportunity to solve some of the most pressing problems facing science today.’ . . .
He believes that Darwin’s theory is full of ‘gaps and raises more questions than it answers.’
One gap mentioned by Lloyd is the lack of transitional fossils in the fossil record. . . .
Lloyd observed at the school board meeting that the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have both agreed that ‘Any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught.’
Lloyd didn’t say any of these things (what he did say was bad enough). However, White says stuff like this all the time, a fact that provides more evidence that his was actually the most influential presence at the school board meeting, even if perhaps only by proxy (he doesn’t say whether he actually attended).
Furthermore, “Academic Freedom in Central” is chock full of intelligent design creationist nonsense, such as DI fellow Michael Behe’s concept of “irreducible complexity” (IC). White ignores the fact that IC, which is actually an old creationist concept that Behe himself recycled, has been thoroughly debunked. But this is what he and the LFF promote for Louisiana schoolchildren. In fact, White asserts that under Central’s policy, “students will be challenged to learn more about science and improve their scientific literacy and critical thinking skills” and that “this new policy can only lead to good for the children of our community.”
By now, Louisiana citizens who support teaching good science are familiar with the way the LFF operates. We expect nothing better from them. They have shamelessly prevaricated and politicked in order to undermine the teaching of evolution in Louisiana. But the really unforgivable part of all this is that public officials from the highest levels of Louisiana government all the way down to two local school districts, Ouachita Parish and now the Central Community School System — people who are supposed to protect the integrity of what children are taught in public schools — helped them do it.