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Anti-Evolution Bills Pose Economic, Legal Risks for Louisiana, Leshner Writes
Two anti-evolution bills pending in the Louisiana Legislature would "unleash an assault against scientific integrity, leaving students confused about science and unprepared to excel in a modern workforce," AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner wrote in a letter to the New Orleans Times-Picayune
The letter, published Tuesday 6 May, warns that Louisiana is already facing considerable economic and education challenges, with employers are struggling to fill science and tech jobs and 53% of state eighth-graders scoring below basic competence on the most recent national science tests.
Sponsored by state Senator Ben Nevers and Representative Frank A. Hoffman, the bills supposedly would give educators the freedom to promote discussion and critical thinking on issues like evolution. They would allow schools to introduce curriculum materials that raise questions not just about evolution, but about global climate change and other issues.
Leshner, who also serves as executive publisher of the journal Science, called the bills "alarming," saying that they're designed to introduce religious ideas such as intelligent design into public school classrooms. Federal courts have ruled repeatedly that because creationism and intelligent design are religious ideas, teaching them in public school science classrooms violates the U.S. constitutional provisions requiring a separation of church and state.
"Rather than provoke an expensive, divisive legal fight," Leshner wrote, "we'd be better off doing everything we can to ensure the best possible science education for the next generation of problem-solvers."
Louisiana's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 9-2 vote last week to support Nevers' bill, but only if it is stripped of specific subject areas that are open to question and if the supplemental materials are approved by the Board rather than by local schools districts.
In the early 1980s, Louisiana's lawmakers approved a bill requiring equal time for creationism in science classes where evolution was taught. It was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987, but only after considerable legal costs and damage to the state's global reputation.
Edward W. Lempinen
6 May 2008