Bobby Jindal and Teaching Creationism in the Public Schools

Bobby Jindal tops of recent poll of favorite elected Republicans among conservative bloggers and is believed to be on John McCain’s short list for potential running mates. The New Scientist might rank him highly as a threat to the legitimate teaching of science. Their current issue discusses a new law passed in Louisiana and signed by Jindal. The bill “allow teachers and school boards across the state to present non-scientific alternatives to evolution” and is being used as a back-door attempt to teach evolution (intelligent design) in science classes using a new strategy to attempt to circumvent court decisions opposed to teaching evolution in public school science classes:

The strategy being employed in Louisiana by proponents of ID – including the Seattle-based Discovery Institute – is more subtle and potentially more difficult to challenge. Instead of trying to prove that ID is science, they have sought to bestow on teachers the right to introduce non-scientific alternatives to evolution under the banner of “academic freedom”.

“Academic freedom is a great thing,” says Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California. “But if you look at the American Association of University Professors’ definition of academic freedom, it refers to the ability to do research and publish.” This, he points out, is different to the job high-school teachers are supposed to do. “In high school, you’re teaching mainstream science so students can go on to college or medical school, where you need that freedom to explore cutting-edge ideas. To apply ‘academic freedom’ to high school is a misuse of the term.”

“It’s very slick,” says Forrest. “The religious right has co-opted the terminology of the progressive left… They know that phrase appeals to people.”

The article disccusses Jindal’s connections with the religious right:

On 28 June, Louisiana’s Republican governor, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, signed the bill into law. The development has national implications, not least because Jindal is rumoured to be on Senator John McCain’s shortlist as a potential running mate in his bid for the presidency.

Born in 1971 to parents recently arrived from India, Jindal is a convert to Roman Catholicism and a Rhodes scholar – hardly the profile of a typical Bible-belt politician. Yet in a recent national television appearance he voiced approval for the teaching of ID alongside evolution. He also enjoys a close relationship with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a lobbying group for the religious right whose mission statement includes “presenting biblical principles” in “centers of influence”. It was the LFF which set the bill in motion earlier this year.

“We believe that to teach young people critical thinking skills you have to give them both sides of an issue,” says Gene Mills, executive director of the LFF. When asked whether the new law fits with the organisation’s religious agenda, Mills told New Scientist: “Certainly it’s an extension of it.”

Opposition to this attempt to teach creationism instead of legitimate science is not limited to the left. Last week I quoted John Derbyshire’s criticism of the Discovery Institute. The same post criticizes this bill and refers back to a previous post in which he criticized the bill on sound conservative grounds:

The entire effect of this law, if Gov. Jindal signs it, will be that one cartload of Louisiana taxpayers’ money will go to the Discovery Institute for their mendacious “textbooks,” then another cartload will go into the pockets of lawyers to defend the inevitable challenge to the law in federal courts, which will inevitably be successful, as they always are, and should be.

Any Louisianian who wants his kids to have a religious education can send them to parochial schools; although if the parochial school is Roman Catholic, the kids will learn standard biology (“Darwinism”) in science classes, since the RC Church — Gov. Jindal’s church — approves it. Or they can home school them. Everybody’s fine with this. I’m fine with it. Louisiana Coalition for Science is fine with it. Raise you kids the way you want to. You may not, though — you constitutionally may not — oblige taxpayers to fund your religious beliefs.

Veto this bill, Gov. Jindal, or explain to Louisiana taxpayers the pointless waste of public money that will inevitably ensue from your signing it.

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