Science education took another step backwards in Louisiana on 16 September 2009 when the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) ignored education professionals in the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) and allowed a religious lobbying group, the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), to dictate procedures for complaints on creationist supplementary materials used in school science classes.
The Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), enacted in June 2008, provided that “[a] teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.” A subsequent January 2009 provision adopted by the BESE prohibited the promotion of religious views, but still allowed teachers to introduce supplementary material on creation and intelligent design into the classroom.
The state DOE had provided recommendations to the BESE stating that when a complaint about supplementary materials is filed, “the DOE will select three reviewers” who “should be experts” who can determine if contested materials meet criteria for use in public school science classes. However, the 16 September 2009 meeting of the BESE Committee was dominated by the testimony of numerous creationists, including University of Louisiana-Lafayette linguistics professor John W. Oller, Jr., a member of the “Technical Advisory Board” of the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas, Texas, and Charles Voss, vice-president of the creationist Origins Resource Association. Based on this testimony, the procedures for addressing complaints were modified.
As currently written, the reviewers are not chosen by the Louisiana DOE, but rather by the challenger, the publisher of the material, and the school district. For both the publisher and a school district that allows the use of creationist materials, it is unlikely that a reviewer who does not have a bias towards teaching creationism will be chosen, rendering a fair evaluation impossible. This allows the BESE to essentially rubber stamp any materials that the LFF and other creationist reviewers recommend.
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