Archive for the 'Louisiana Family Forum' Category

Published by admin on 14 Oct 2011

What Louisiana Science Teachers Are Required to Do Under the LA Science Education Act (updated)

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By Barbara Forrest

Many teachers and administrators in Louisiana public schools — and probably some students and parents, too — may be wondering what science teachers are required to do under the terms of the creationist Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which became law with Bobby Jindal’s signature in June 2008.  The law and the implementation policy adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) allow teachers to bring creationist materials into their classrooms and use them until they get caught doing it. We know that the law permits this because (a) Sen. Ben Nevers, the bill’s sponsor, said so, and (b) the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) successfully lobbied BESE to delete the prohibitions against teaching creationism from the policy that implements the law. So evolution, the “origins of life,” global warming, and human cloning are all fair game in science classrooms. So now, with the law on the books, what do teachers have to do as a result? Here, after three years, is the definitive answer:

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Published by admin on 01 Oct 2011

Louisiana Creationists Make False Charges Against Biology Textbooks (Updated)

By Barbara Forrest

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A new school year is now well under way, and public schools in Louisiana fortunately have a nice selection of new biology textbooks from which to choose for classroom use. In December 2010, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) heeded the voice of reason from concerned citizens and did the right thing by approving the books, despite the fact that the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) and its supporters did their best to cloud the issue with misinformation.

One of the most frequent charges that LFF creationists made in their attack on the process of selecting biology textbooks last fall was that the books had not actually been updated since 2002. Those of us who testified at the December 7 BESE meeting heard creationists say this repeatedly. John Oller, for example, made this charge:

John Oller, a professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who appeared with [Rev. Gene] Mills [of the Louisiana Family Forum], said the books are 30 to 60 years out of date. ‘They have been dumbed down, they are really weak books,’ Oller told the state panel. — Baton Rouge Advocate, December 7, 2010 (emphasis added)

Having personally inspected all of the proposed new books myself (see update below), I decided to check with one of the authors who also happens to be a good friend, Kenneth Miller, a cell biologist at Brown University. The high school textbook, Biology, which Ken co-authored with scientist Joe Levine, is one of the most widely used textbooks in the United States. (See “Meet the Authors” at Pearson Publishing.) Ken gave me permission to share with readers a document that he has made available to teachers in several states, explaining all the changes from the 2002 “Dragonfly” version of the textbook to the 2010 “Macaw” version. Needless to say, Oller’s charge does not hold up.

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Published by admin on 20 Jul 2011

Memory problems at the Louisiana Family Forum?

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 By Barbara Forrest

Readers may remember this quote in which Rev. Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) described the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA).

This bill is not about teaching creationism or religion. If one reads the language of his bill, it is clear that it simply permits teachers ‘to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.’   [emphasis added]

Mills wrote this in an April 11, 2008, letter to the Hammond Daily Star, in which he had to do some very quick damage control after Senator Ben Nevers, who sponsored the bill for him, forgot to follow the script in his remarks in the April 6, 2008, Daily Star, in which he explained why he was sponsoring the LSEA on behalf of the LFF:

‘They [the LFF]  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. ‘I feel the students should know there are weaknesses and strengths in both scientific arguments.’  [emphasis added]

You could just about hear the kittens over at the LFF headquarters in Baton Rouge.

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Published by admin on 24 Jun 2011

Announcement: Louisiana HB 580 is dead.

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By Barbara Forrest

The Louisiana Coalition for Science (LCFS) is pleased to announce the demise of HB 580, which is official with the adjournment of the Louisiana legislature today, June 23, 2011, at 6:00 p.m. This legislation was, by every indication, nothing more than an attempt to reverse the Louisiana Family Forum’s defeat in its effort to block the approval of new biology textbooks for Louisiana public schools in fall 2010. However, even though HB 580 was another stealth creationism bill, no subject of instruction in public schools would have been safe from its effects. Continue Reading »

Published by admin on 10 Jun 2011

Press Release: HB 580 — yet another Louisiana stealth creationism bill (no, seriously).

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By Barbara Forrest

Friends, we at the Louisiana Coalition for Science would like to be able to say that we are pulling your leg. But we’re not. Louisiana is about to enact into law yet another stealth creationism bill in the form of HB 580 — unless the Senate finally decides to put a stop to this foolishness within the next 13 days when the current legislative session (mercifully) comes to an end. HB 580 passed in the House of Representatives on June 8 with a vote [pdf] of 87 yays, 5 nays, and 13 abstentions. (Thank you, Rep. Walt Leger, Rep. Patricia Haynes-Smith, Rep. Regina Barrow, Rep. Barbara Norton, and Rep. Charmaine Marchand Stiaes.) Louisiana is the embodiment of one of the cardinal rules that every pro-science citizen has to learn:  CREATIONISTS NEVER GIVE UP. To which we now add a corollary:  CREATIONISTS WANT IT ALL. Louisiana creationists were given the proverbial inch in the form of the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), and since 2008 they have been industriously grabbing their mile.

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Published by admin on 03 Apr 2011

Did Louisiana Family Forum’s prayer network malfunction?

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By Barbara Forrest

For the three years since the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) was enacted, the Louisiana Coalition for Science has hammered constantly on the fact that the LSEA is a creationist law. The Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) has consistently denied this. But other people who share the same political and religious views as the LFF seem to have their own ideas concerning what this law is all about. Maybe the LFF’s memo didn’t get sent out widely enough through the prayer network . . . or the divine communication channels broke down . . . or something.

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Published by admin on 21 Feb 2011

Rest in peace New Mexico HB 302. Hear that, Louisiana?


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By Barbara Forrest

New Mexico’s stealth creationist bill, HB 302, which in many respects closely tracked the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), has been tabled, meaning that it is dead for the current legislative session. The bill’s obituary was posted by the National Center for Science Education , and its demise was confirmed by a dedicated pro-science citizen in New Mexico who helped put it to sleep. This development should serve as an example to Louisiana legislators, who will have an opportunity in the upcoming regular session of the Louisiana legislature to send the LSEA to a similar fate by repealing it outright.

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Published by admin on 16 Jan 2011

After Louisiana Family Forum textbook defeat: John Oller fesses up

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By Barbara Forrest

Readers who saw the December 2, 2010, post here about Louisiana creationist John Oller no doubt recall the abundant evidence that Oller is a young-earth creationist — or “YEC” in creationist-watching parlance. Serving on the Technical Advisory Board of the Institute for Creation Research and writing creationist articles over a period of thirty years, writing an article for Answers in Genesis (AIG) in which he invokes the biblical Tower of Babel story to explain the diversity of human languages, and attending an AIG conference as a “creation scientist” at the infamous “Creation Museum” (see Ken Ham, “The Definition of ‘Information,’”) — somehow that all just seems to point in the YEC direction. Our December 2 post was the first analysis of Oller’s identity as a creationist. Although he is an integral player in the Louisiana Family Forum’s creationist game plan, Oller has flown under the radar, having been overshadowed in the media coverage by LFF executive director, Rev. Gene Mills, and LFF operative Darrell White.

After the December 2 post was published, Oller did not respond to attempts by Independent Weekly journalist Walter Pierce to contact him for Pierce’s own December 8 article. (See “Devolve,” Independent Weekly, Lafayette, LA, December 8, 2010.) The IW is published in Lafayette, LA, where Oller lives and works. According to Pierce, “The Ind reached out to Professor Oller for comment on his views on these topics via phone and email. He didn’t respond to our overtures.” According to a January 3, 2011, article in the Acadiana Gazette (about which there is more below), Oller “didn’t return their calls because it was finals week and he felt that his students had to come first.” It is interesting that final exams [pdf] at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette did not keep him from spending the entire day of December 7 (the second day of ULL exams) in Baton Rouge at the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) meeting, where he testified against the adoption of new biology textbooks for other teachers’ students.

Oller’s pre-BESE-meeting unresponsiveness to the Independent Weekly was understandable. He had to try to preserve his façade of scientific authenticity for his testimony against the textbooks; no other “scientists” showed up on the Louisiana Family Forum’s behalf at that meeting. And after getting the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) passed in 2008 and then getting control of BESE policies implementing the LSEA in 2009, the LFF’s winning streak was at stake. But, as they say, that was then, and this is now. After the LFF lost its December 7 battle against the textbooks, Oller fessed up only three days later.

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Published by admin on 31 Dec 2010

Power (and bucks) over principle at the Louisiana Family Forum


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By Barbara Forrest

The December 28 Baton Rouge Advocate ran a very nice editorial about Zachary Kopplin’s contribution to the Louisiana Coalition for Science’s successful effort to secure approval of biology textbooks for Louisiana public schools on December 7.

The newest giant-killer in state education policy? A 17-year-old student from Baton Rouge High School, who became the spokesman against new efforts to attack the theory of evolution. . . .

Enter Zack Kopplin, an earnest student who campaigned for sound science and against neo-creationism in schools. Kopplin had some help. Members of BESE were contacted by many people who want Louisiana students to learn the facts of science, not the [Louisiana] Family Forum’s mumbo-jumbo.

But the part that attracted Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) executive director Rev. Gene Mills’s attention was the editorial’s brief reference to his organization. Continue Reading »

Published by admin on 20 Dec 2010

Merry Kitzmas, everybody! A gift from the Louisiana Coalition for Science


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By Barbara Forrest

It’s Kitzmastime! Today, December 20, marks the fifth anniversary of the victory for science education and the Constitution in the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District (2005). As a result of the ruling [pdf] in favor of the plaintiffs delivered by Judge John E. Jones III, we now have a landmark legal opinion that will serve as the resource of first resort for the judge in the next case stirred up either by the creationists at the Discovery Institute or their foot soldiers in Whereverville, USA. This notable pre-Christmas holiday comes on the heels of a victory for science education in Louisiana: the decision by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve new high school biology textbooks for public schools. To celebrate both this local victory and the Kitzmastide anniversary, the Louisiana Coalition for Science has an inspirational Kitzmas present for you. Continue Reading »

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