Zack Kopplin is one of those all-too-rare individuals who is willing to spend time and energy to make a difference. As a Baton Rouge high school student, he recognized that the recently passed Louisiana Science Education Act constituted terrible educational policy. His conclusion was certainly not unique in that a host of scientific organizations have made exactly the same determination. The difference between Zack and so many others, though, was his desire to take productive action. I told his impressive story in a recent Huffington Post essay.
Zack's efforts deserve widespread attention and I can think of no better way to help than by providing Zack with a forum to share his thoughts directly with readers. Here's what Zack has to say:
My state is addicted to creationism!
Louisiana doesn't remember the lesson it was taught back in 1987 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Edwards vs. Aguillard, invalidated a Louisiana law requiring creationism be taught alongside evolution and ruled that it was unconstitutional to teach creationism in public school science classes.
In 2008, the Louisiana Legislature passed a new creationism law, making us second-time offenders. We are the only state with a creationism law on the books.
Named the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), the law pretends to promote critical thinking. In reality, though, it is stealth legislation designed to sneak the unconstitutional and unscientific teaching of creationism or its offshoot, intelligent design, into public school science classes.
Because the Edwards decision established that creationists cannot legally foist their religious views on public school students directly, the creationist zealots are now trying misdirection. Their new legislation employs code language like "critical thinking" and "teaching the alternatives" in order to pretend to be promoting something noble. But creative language doesn't change the fact that they are simply pushing their religious agenda into the science classroom.
And LSEA doesn't change educational and scientific realities.
- Teachers are already supposed to teach critical thinking.
- There are no scientific alternatives to evolution.
The sole purpose for the Louisiana Science Education Act is to insert creationism into a public school science classroom.
Even as the bill's proponents toss around their education-friendly phrases like "critical thinking," they have on numerous occasions openly identified the true aim of the law: to teach creationism as science.
Senator Ben Nevers, the sponsor of the Senate version of the LSEA said,
The Louisiana Family Forum suggested the bill ... They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory.
Jan Benton, the Livingston Parish School Board Director of Curriculum, also openly admitted to her board that the law's purpose was to allow "critical thinking and creationism" in science classes.
If these so-called "leaders" were serious about academic freedom, they would not have scrapped the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's original rules about implementing the LSEA which expressly prohibited the teaching of creationism because it lacks scientific merit.
The true intent of this law, rather than the rhetoric associated with it, is clear; sneaking unconstitutional and unscientific creationism into public school science classrooms.
This hurts Louisiana kids. We want jobs, but if we are taught creationism, we will not get them. There are no creationist jobs. Check any major job finding sites like Monster or CareerBuilder, and they will tell you, sorry, there are zero creationist jobs. On the other hand, if you search those sites for biology, you will find over a thousand jobs. Louisiana students need to be taught evolution, not creationism, to get jobs.
This law is also hurting Louisiana tourism, which is one of Louisiana's most important industries. Louisiana's anti-science reputation is scaring away major science conventions which bring thousands of people and millions of dollars to our state. One organization, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology actually pulled a convention that was scheduled for 2011 as a protest. Others are simply looking elsewhere when they're considering locations.
Louisiana wants to develop a 21st century biomedical industry through the New Orleans Bio District and the Shreveport Biomedical Research Foundation. But Louisiana's reputation has created a negative business environment that is chasing away scientists and entrepreneurs. Louisiana won't be able take a place at the forefront of the biomedical industry if we don't repeal this law.
Louisiana's creationism law must go. It is killing Louisiana jobs and hurting Louisiana kids.
I'm a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High and I'm leading an effort to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act. I encourage everyone who cares about education to help out by joining the repeal's Facebook page and by going to www.repealcreationism.com to get involved. Invite your friends to join us.
If enough of us care, we can help Louisiana kick its addiction and join the modern world.
As I wrote at the outset, Zack Kopplin is an impressive individual. I hope his passion resonates with many of you and that his words spur you to action. Although Zack's battle is over one awful Louisiana law, he is fighting for all of us who care about high quality science education. As amazing as it might seem in this, the second decade of the 21 century, nine creationist bills have already been introduced in various U.S. state legislatures. Help fight this madness.
Follow Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mzclergyletter