Archive for the 'Louisiana science textbooks' Category

Published by admin on 30 May 2013

Letter to Senate Education Committee: Please vote against HB 116.

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By Barbara Forrest

HB 116 by Rep. Frank Hoffmann (R-West Monroe) will be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Thursday, May 30, 2013.  The following e-mail went to all members of the committee on May 28. Some additional hyperlinks have been added to this post. Only the hyperlinks that are visible in full were included in the e-mail to the committee.

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Published by admin on 27 Dec 2011

Ringing Out 2011: “Battle over Science in Louisiana”

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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).

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Published by admin on 18 Dec 2011

Textaddons.com — Would teachers really use this pathetic stuff? (Updated)

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 By Barbara Forrest

It’s almost Kitzmas time again, which means that it’s almost the sixth anniversary of the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover [pdf] that was handed down on December 20, 2005. Although the Kitzmiller ruling applies only in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, it has served as a powerful legal statement that intelligent design (ID) is merely warmed-over creationism, the teaching of which is unconstitutional in public school science classes. But in Louisiana we have something else to celebrate:  December 7, 2011, marked the first anniversary of the Louisiana Coalition for Science’s successful effort to persuade the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to approve new biology textbooks for public school biology classes.

It is important to recall this event because it marked the first — and so far only — victory that defenders of science have had in Louisiana, a state in which — where public officials are concerned — standing up for science is a liability rather than a cause for commendation. (UPDATE: An alert LCFS member noted my omission of the fact that LCFS successfully fended off HB 580 during the 2011 legislative session. This stealth creationist bill would have undercut the oversight of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education over school districts’ purchase of supplementary materials and would have written the professional staff of the Department of Education out of its role in reviewing textbooks, etc. That victory came in spring of this year, so we will have another anniversary to celebrate next June!)

The people who have attacked the teaching of science in Louisiana are still around. One of them is young-earth creationist (YEC) Charles Voss, who for years has partnered with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) in its effort to undermine the teaching of evolution. Voss is vice-president of the YEC Origins Resource Association (see the ORA Facebook page). ORA’s president is YEC chemist Edward Boudreaux (do follow this link), who was involved in the passage of the 1981 “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act,” which was declared unconstitutional in 1987 by the United States Supreme Court. (See Boudreaux’s Facebook page.) Note that the ORA was founded in 1980 as “Louisiana Citizens for Academic Freedom in Origins.” (Ring any bells?) Let’s take a look at what Voss has been doing since the approval of the textbooks last year.

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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 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 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 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 »

Published by admin on 16 Dec 2010

Zachary Kopplin — Another reason that BESE made the right decision about the textbooks


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By Barbara Forrest

On December 7, the day that the Student/School Performance and Support Committee (SSPS) of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) voted to approve new biology textbooks, Zachary Kopplin’s letter to the Shreveport Times was published: “La. students need proper scientific textbooks without creationism.” Zack is a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School who assisted the Louisiana Coalition for Science in making the case to the SSPS Committee for approving the textbooks. (He also testified at the November 12, 2010, meeting of the Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council. See his picture here.) As his senior project at school, he has chosen to mount an effort to have the Louisiana Science Education Act repealed. Readers of this website will be hearing much more about this effort in the near future. (See Repealcreationism.com.)

In his Shreveport Times letter, Zack urged BESE to do the right thing and approve the textbooks: “As a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, I feel strongly that BESE should immediately adopt proper science textbooks that teach evolution without any disclaimers, revisions or supplementary materials.” He also addressed creationists’ misunderstanding of evolution: “[C]reationists also pretend there are ‘flaws’ in the theory of evolution. There are no flaws. In fact the National Academy of Sciences states on their website that because evidence supporting evolution is so strong, ‘scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred, and is continuing to occur. Instead, they investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution has taken place…’” His letter prompted a December 10 response by Bossier City attorney Ryan E. Gatti.

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Published by admin on 08 Dec 2010

The students won in Louisiana today . . . and again! (Update 12/9/10)


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By Barbara Forrest

UPDATE December 9, 2010, 12:45 p.m. CST — The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education just voted to accept the December 7 approval of the biology textbooks by the Student/School Performance and Support Committee. Dale Bayard remained the sole nay vote. Dale Bayard again voted against accepting the books, as did one other board member Louella Givens in an 8-2 vote. But Merry Christmas anyway, Mr. Bayard!  :)  See the story by the National Center for Science Education here. [end update] The voice of reason carried the day in Louisiana at the meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Educations’s Student/School Performance Committee meeting in Baton Rouge, LA. Seven of the board’s eleven members attended, and six of them voted in a voice vote to approve the proposed biology textbooks. The sole nay vote was committee chair Dale Bayard. Here is a quick announcement in the form of a press release that I sent out this afternoon. There will be more information as time permits. Continue Reading »

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