Louisiana the Only State to Promote Academic Freedom (So Far)
by Christine Dao *
Last month, Louisiana became the only state to set into law some measure of academic protection for teachers who wish to present more than one side of the origins debate. The Louisiana Academic Freedom Act, authored by State Senator Ben Nevers, will shield public school teachers from discrimination or job termination if they introduce material on controversial topics in the science classroom, including evidence against biological evolution.
The bill was signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal, who has already received criticism for his Christian background. Critics, including well-known evolution supporters from the National Center for Science Education and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, say the bill’s intention is to introduce creationism into the classroom.
But just what exactly in the bill’s provisions irks these critics?
The bill states Louisiana recognizes that “an important purpose of science education is to inform students about scientific evidence and to help students develop critical thinking skills that they need in order to become intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens.” Also, that “the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.”1
Rather than promoting a specific religious agenda, Section E of the bill “protects the teaching of scientific information, and this section shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.”1
There is no doubt that problems exist in Darwin’s evolutionary and natural selection theories, but rather than inform students of these truths, evolutionists would prefer to only have their brand of science presented to the impressionable minds of the next generation, with no questions asked. Critics have accused creation and intelligent design proponents of “using” legislative bodies to pass laws favoring an open origins debate in the classroom. They fail, however, to mention their own use of the judicial system to support evolution-only teaching (as in the highly-publicized 2005 Dover case2).
A basic U.S. government high school course should remind us that in a democracy, legislators vote on policy to reflect the will of the people who elected them. The judicial system exists to interpret those laws, not to create new ones to fit the will of the few. According to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life nationwide survey,3 in 2005 a significant number of Americans did not think evolution was the best explanation for the origins of human life.
Similar legislative bills have failed in South Carolina, Alabama, Michigan, Missouri, and Florida. Hopefully, these states and the rest of the nation will follow Louisiana’s example to offer our nation’s students the freedom to learn and the opportunity to become objective and critically-thinking adults.
- Louisiana Academic Freedom Act, SB733 - 2008 Regular Session (Act 473), effective June 25, 2008.
- Dao, C. PBS’ “Judgment Day” Is a Misjudgment. ICR News, posted online November 21, 2007, accessed July 15, 2008.
- Public Divided on Origins of Life. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Survey report, posted online August 30, 2005, accessed July 15, 2008.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor.
Article posted on July 23, 2008.