The Orleans Parish School Board, which controls the curriculum and policies for six schools in New Orleans, voted Tuesday to ban the teaching of creationism as science and a "revisionist" history course touted in Texas.
Although none of these six New Orleans schools currently teaches creationism or "intelligent design," outgoing Orleans Parish School Board President Thomas Robichaux is making sure they never will, The Times-Picayune first reported in November.
The newly approved policy bans teachers from including "any aspect of religious faith" in science courses and from using history textbooks adjusted to include Christianity.
The first part regarding textbooks reads: “No history textbook shall be approved which has been adjusted in accordance with the State of Texas revisionist guidelines nor shall any science textbook be approved which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories."
The second part delves specifically into teaching: “No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.”
The Texas State Board of Education in 2010 adopted a statewide social studies and history curriculum that amended or watered down the teaching of the civil rights movement, religious freedoms, America's relationship with the United Nations and hundreds of other topics. Its approved social studies curriculum included religious and right-wing viewpoints, the New York Times previously reported. Social studies and economic textbooks were altered to include "the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light."
A report out last year by Keith Erekson, an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at El Paso, says that Texas K-12 standards in history are inadequate, ineffective and "fail to meet the state's college readiness standards." The report notes that the Fordham Institute gave Texas's history standards a "D" grade, calling them a "politicized distortion of history" that is "both unwieldy and troubling" while "offering misrepresentations at every turn."
"When this was done in Texas, all this talk was what massive influence would do in other states," Robichaux told Gambit's Best of New Orleans blog. "We want to make sure kids are taught history that has been properly vetted by academics and prepared for their consumption.... I have no problem teaching [religion] in a religion or philosophy class, but the science class is not the appropriate place for it."
Robichaux is a liberal Democrat and the school board's first openly gay president, according to The Times-Picayune. His policy was reportedly influenced by a concern that, in the future, the school board could be pressured to adopt a curriculum with religious connotations.