Board lauded for decision on science curriculum, books

The day after the Orleans Parish School Board voted to forbid science teachers to teach creationism and banned approval of any science textbook “which presents creationism or intelligent design as science or scientific theories,” board President Thomas Robichaux said he received more than 300 faxes and emails applauding them for their effort.

“That’s more positive feedback on this proposal than anything else we’ve proposed in the past four years,” Robichaux said.

Robichaux said the amendments, which were adopted uanimously by the School Board, are one of the most important things the board has done related to education standards and curriculum.

The board amended its basic instructional program to forbid any science teacher from teaching any aspect of religious faith as science or teaching religious doctrine in science classes. The amendment also specifically bans science teachers from teaching creationism or intelligent design in their classes.

The board also amended its textbook selection and adoption policy to forbid the approval of any science textbook that presents creationism or intelligent design as science or as scientific theories. The amendment also addresses revisions in history textbooks demanded by the state of Texas, which call for highlighting the role of Christianity in U.S. history. The School Board specified that no textbooks adhering to those guidelines can be approved.

Robichaux said he has been working to make the changes since the Louisiana Science Education Act was passed by the state Legislature in 2008. That law allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials in their classrooms in addition to state-approved textbooks.

Robichaux called the act “misnamed,” echoing the sentiment at the time from the scientific community across the nation, which criticized the law as being designed to allow the teaching of creationism in public school science classrooms.

Efforts to repeal the law failed in April despite the fact that more than 70 Nobel Prize-winning scientists urged lawmakers to get rid of it. Gov. Bobby Jindal and Christian conservatives opposed the repeal, saying the law was designed to promote critical thinking and strengthen education.

“The law is a direct attack on our children’s future. This is a way to take a small step to protect our children’s future,” Robichaux said.

While intelligent design and creationism are not taught in Orleans Parish School Board schools as part of curriculum standards, Robichaux said the School Board’s new amendment puts a policy in writing that will prevent faith-based ideas from being taught as science.

Intelligent design advocates believe the universe stems from an intelligent designer.

There isn’t anything preventing the teachings of creationism in philosophy or religion classes, Robichaux noted, but the new policy will ensure that creationism can’t be taught in science classes “because it’s not science.”

Robichaux said he would not be surprised if there were people on the “radical right” who will say the new policy violates the 2008 law. But Robichaux said he welcomes the challenge and will fight it based on the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Edwards v. Aguillard case. In that case, the court ruled that a Louisiana law that required the teaching of creation science along with evolution in public schools was unconstitutional. The court gave the reasoning that the law was specifically intended to advance a particular religion and that it did not maintain the separation of church and state.

The bottom line is that creationism has no basis in science, only in religion, Robi-
chaux said.