By Barbara Forrest
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 Gene] Mills [of the Louisiana Family Forum], said the books are 30 to 60 years out of date.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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