NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2012/11/30
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, A new issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach is published -- with exciting news about the journal's future to boot. The issue of public funding of private schools that teach creationism is in the news again in Louisiana. And a bill requiring the teaching of "intelligent design" is expected in Montana.
THE LATEST ISSUE OF EVOLUTION: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH The latest issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach -- the new journal promoting the accurate understanding and comprehensive teaching of evolutionary theory for a wide audience -- now published. The theme for the issue (volume 5, number 4), edited by Bruce S. Lieberman, is biogeography. Articles on the theme include "The Geography of Evolution and the Evolution of Geography"; "Invasive Species and Evolution"; "Using Marine Snails to Teach Biogeography and Macroevolution"; "The Geography of Speciation: Case Studies from Birds"; "The (Paleo)Geography of Evolution"; "Historical Biogeography"; and "Species? Geographic Distributions Through Time." Plus there are various articles on the teaching of evolution. Also included is the latest installment of NCSE's regular column, Overcoming Obstacles to Evolution Education. In "Evolution and Biogeography: Leading Students in Darwin?s and Wallace?s Footsteps," NCSE's Joshua Rosenau suggests, "Exploring life's diversity and geography's effect on it was central to Darwin['s] and Wallace's parallel discoveries of evolution. Those discoveries required the two to overcome their own misconceptions about species and biology. By helping students to see the world through the eyes of explorers and placing life's diversity into a geographic context, teachers can help students overcome those same barriers to the acceptance of evolution and deepen students' appreciation of diversity." In his editorial introduction to the issue, Niles Eldredge reports, "Beginning in January 2013, E: E&O will become an 'Open Access' journal -- freely available to everyone the world over with access to the internet," adding, "we are thrilled that the journal's contents (including all back content over the first five years) will soon be freely available to everyone. We are proud of what E: E&O has brought to the world in terms of the understanding and communication of evolutionary concepts. We thank all of our contributors -- writers, editors, and reviewers -- who have made the journal so successful so far. Now that E: E&O will be even more accessible to both the scientific and educational communities, we look forward to making an even bigger difference in the years to come!" For the issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach, visit: http://link.springer.com/journal/12052/5/4/page/1 For Rosenau's article (subscription required), visit: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12052-012-0459-1 For Eldredge's introduction to the issue, visit: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12052-012-0461-7/fulltext.html LOUISIANA'S VOUCHER PROGRAM IN THE DOCK A trial in a state court over Louisiana's controversial voucher program began on November 28, 2012, reviving the issue of the state's funding of schools that teach creationism. As NCSE previously reported, the voucher program uses public school funds to pay for tuition and certain fees at private schools for students who attend low-performing public schools and whose family income is below a certain level. But as Zack Kopplin, the activist who organized the effort to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, told the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, at least 19 of the 119 schools slated to benefit from the program teach creationism instead of or along with evolution; at least one of the schools uses a textbook that cites the Loch Ness monster as evidence against evolution. Neither the Loch Ness monster nor creationism is at issue in the current legal challenge to the voucher program, however. Rather, the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers along with a number of local school boards are arguing that the program violates the state constitution by redirecting local tax dollars from public schools to private schools. As a columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune (November 28, 2012) explains, the law instituting the program attempted to avoid the problem: "the state deducts from what the [program] pays to local districts an amount nearly equal to the state portion and what the districts raise locally ... but the school boards argue that in reality they are being docked for both the state and local portions for each voucher student." Although the accounting details are at the heart of the case, it is creationism that captures the attention outside Louisiana: in a eighteen-paragraph story on the lawsuit in the Guardian (November 28, 2012), no fewer than thirteen paragraphs discussed creationism. The Guardian's article quoted Zack Kopplin, Americans United for Separation of Church and State's Rob Boston, and Barbara Forrest, a member of NCSE's board of directors, who commented, with regard to the claims that the voucher program promotes the quality of education in Louisiana, "It is not better education. It is inferior when you are teaching kids that the earth is 6,000 years old. A lot of public money is going to schools that teach creationism and fundamentalist science. I think that is dreadful." A ruling in the case is expected shortly. For the story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, visit: http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2012/11/gov_jindals_landmark_education.html For the story in the Guardian, visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/28/bobby-jindal-louisiana-creationism-case And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/louisiana "INTELLIGENT DESIGN" BILL EXPECTED IN MONTANA A Montana legislator is preparing a bill to require the teaching of "intelligent design" along with evolution. On November 5, 2012, Clayton Fiscus (R-District 46), a new member of the Montana House of Representatives, asked for a bill to be drafted that would "[r]equire public schools to teach intelligent design along with evolution." As such, the bill would presumably conflict with the decision in the 2005 case Kitzmiller v. Dover, in which requiring the public schools to teach "intelligent design" was held to be unconstitutional. The legislature convenes on January 7, 2013. The last antievolution bill to be introduced in Montana's legislature was House Bill 588 in 2001, which would have required, among other things, the teaching of "competing theories of origin" rather than "the exclusive teaching of the theory of evolution"; a "reasonably balanced presentation" of evidence "supporting and disproving each major theory of origin"; and the appointment of a volunteer citizen panel, with "supporters and nonsupporters of Darwin's theory of evolution" equally represented, to recommend instructional materials "that comply with the intent" of the bill. It died in committee. For information about the bill draft, number LC0599, visit: http://laws.leg.mt.gov/legprd/law0203w$.startup?P_SESS=20131 For NCSE's previous coverage of events in Montana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/montana 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 and climate education and threats to them. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x305 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Read Reports of the NCSE on-line: http://reports.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/join