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 PREMIERES IN THE UNITED STATES 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: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2009/09/eugenie-scott-r.html For Creation's website, visit: http://www.creationthemovie.com/ NCSE ADVISES LOUISIANA 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 citizens." 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: http://ncse.com/news/2010/01/ncse-advises-louisiana-005271 For the story in the Baton Rouge Advocate, visit: http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/59572962.html For the Louisiana Coalition for Science's press release, visit: http://lasciencecoalition.org/2009/09/30/creationists-dictate-bese-policy/ For Americans United's press release, visit: http://www.au.org/media/press-releases/archives/2010/01/au-warns-louisiana-education.html For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana EVOLUTION AND TEXAS IN THE WASHINGTON MONTHLY 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: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2010/1001.blake.html For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Texas, visit: http://ncse.com/news/texas Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. -- Sincerely, 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 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/membership