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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/01/08

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

Creation will premiere in the United States on January 22, 2010. NCSE
offers its advice to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary
Education regarding a proposed policy governing challenges to
supplementary classroom material. And the Washington Monthly takes a
hard look at the antics of the Texas state board of education.


Creation, the new film about Darwin featuring Paul Bettany and
Jennifer Connelly, premieres in the United States on January 22, 2010,
in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Boston. In
her review of Creation at The Panda's Thumb blog, NCSE's executive
director Eugenie C. Scott described it as "a thoughtful, well-made
film that will change many views of Darwin held by the public -- for
the good." Scott, the film's director Jon Amiel, and Kevin Padian,
president of NCSE's board of directors, will participate in a
discussion panel at the San Francisco premiere, and similar events are
planned for the premieres elsewhere. A strong opening weekend improves
the chances that the film will subsequently appear in further cities,
so NCSE encourages its members and friends to show up in force. For
updates, visit Creation's website.

For Scott's review, visit: 

For Creation's website, visit: 


In a letter to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary
Education, NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott explained the
problems with a proposed policy governing supplementary materials in
the state's classrooms and urged the board to adopt the original
version of the policy as drafted by the state department of education.
Her letter was submitted during the public comment period for a policy
designated as Bulletin 741, sec. 2304 Science Education, Part E, which
is intended to implement part of the controversial Louisiana Science
Education Act, widely regarded as opening the door for creationism in
the Pelican State.

Enacted in June 2008 over the protests of scientists and educators
across the state and around the country, the LSEA (enacted as
Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1) provides that "[a] teacher shall
teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the
school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other
instructional materials to help students understand, analyze,
critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, as
permitted by the city, parish, or other local public school board
unless otherwise prohibited by the State Board of Elementary and
Secondary Education."

At issue now is the question of how to handle complaints about
inappropriate supplementary materials. In September 2009, the Baton
Rouge Advocate (September 17, 2009) reported, "The department [of
education] recommended that any complaints undergo an initial review
by a three-member panel named by the agency, then go to the state
board for a final decision." But a BESE committee revised the
procedure so that "two reviewers will be named by the department to
review the science materials in question as well as one reviewer each
named by the challenger, the school and the publisher" of the
challenged materials.

The review procedure proposed by the committee "is biased against the
scientific and constitutional concerns of parents, and we ask that the
policy be revised," Scott wrote in her letter. "The policy creates an
onerous process for individual parents when simpler options are
available. The policy allows inappropriate and constitutionally
suspect material to remain in classrooms longer than necessary. It
disregards the professional expertise of Department of Education staff
in favor of an adversarial system in which defenders of suspect
materials are given more of a voice than concerned parents and

Also critical of the proposed procedure were the Louisiana Coalition
for Science, which complained, "In short, as BESE's complaint
procedure is now drafted, DOE's expert reviewers will be in the
minority, and DOE staff will not be allowed to independently assess
the reviewers' reports but must instead transfer the reports directly
to BESE for evaluation," and Americans United for Separation of Church
and State, which in a letter sent to BESE warned, "The proposed
procedure for reviewing challenged supplemental material is
unnecessarily complicated and appears designed to provide a forum for
promoting creationism."

For the full text of Scott's letter, visit: 

For the story in the Baton Rouge Advocate, visit: 

For the Louisiana Coalition for Science's press release, visit: 

For Americans United's press release, visit: 

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: 


The antics of the Texas state board of education are the topic of a
story in the January/February 2010 issue of the Washington Monthly --
and evolution, unsurprisingly, is exhibit A. "Evolution is hooey," the
former chair of the board, avowed creationist Don McLeroy, told the
Washington Monthly's Mariah Blake, who in the course of her article
"Revisionaries" devotes a fair amount of space to a description of the
recent tussle over the place of evolution in the place of Texas's
science education standards.

As NCSE previously reported, although creationists on the board were
unsuccessful in adding controversial "strengths and weaknesses"
language to the standards, they proposed a flurry of synonyms -- such
as "sufficiency or insufficiency" and "supportive and not supportive"
-- and eventually prevailed with a requirement that students examine
"all sides of scientific evidence." Additionally, the board voted to
add or amend various standards in a way that encourages the
presentation of creationist claims about the complexity of the cell,
the completeness of the fossil record, and the age of the universe.

McLeroy was candid about the purpose of the amendments. "Whoo-eey!" he
told Blake. "We won the Grand Slam, and the Super Bowl, and the World
Cup! Our science standards are light years ahead of any other state
when it comes to challenging evolution!" The distinguished biologist
David Hillis was not so enthusiastic. "Clearly, some board members
just wanted something they could point to so they could reject science
books that don't give a nod to creationism ... If they are able to use
those standards to reject science textbooks, they have won and science
has lost."

For the story in the Washington Monthly, visit: 

For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: 

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution education and threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

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