Sunday, July 06, 2008

Jindal Signs Louisiana Science Education Bill

Earlier this year, the Louisiana State House of Representatives passed the Louisiana Science Education Bill by an overwhelming vote of 93-4. The State Senate recently followed up that action by passing unanimously 35-0. This past week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed the bill into law.

What exactly is the Louisiana Science Education Act? This law allows for the following:

  • Upon the request of a local school board, Louisiana’s State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is to

…allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.

  • Teachers are permitted, if authorized by the school board, to "…use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."
  • Teachers are required to first "…teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system."
  • Louisiana’s State Board of Education reserves the right to veto any supplemental materials they deem as inappropriate.
  • The inclusion of religion is not permitted under this law. Section 1D of the act states that it:

…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.

This law is long overdue. It appropriately does not mention intelligent design, creationism, the Bible, etc. but it merely calls for the freedom to think critically and dialogue on a very important, yet often misunderstood, issue. This act protects teachers from the harassment that often comes when the subject of evolution is broached. The act also provides legal clarity on the issue of teaching controversial issues such as, but not limited to, evolution.

Yet, as to be expected, there are opponents of this new law. The New York Times referred to it as "retrograde" and an "assault on Darwin." Others have vowed to watch the enactment of this law like the hawk. All this because the evolution lobby fears what academic freedom and critical thinking might do to our students.

Their opposition, however, apparently isn't supported by the people of Louisiana. With bipartisan support for this bill, only four state representatives voted against it. Furthermore, Jindal currently has a 77% approval rating in the state.

A round of applause, please, for Governor Jindal and the Louisiana State Legislature.

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