Governor of Louisiana Speaks about the Facts of Science

According is Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana we should teach the facts of science.  In an interview, NBC’s Hoda Kotb asked Governor Jindal if creationism should be taught in our schools. The obvious answer is yes.  In 2008, Jindal signed the Louisiana Science Education Act, which modeled after a bill written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as Academic Freedom Bills. The Louisiana senate passed the bill unanimously, and in the House, the vote was 94-3.  Only three legislators opposed the bill in Louisiana. When Jindal talks about science education, as he did at a forum in New Orleans, we should check what he says in the context of how political activities of the right-wing through the activities of  ALEC, and the Discovery Institute have influenced his thinking.  Jindal signed the Louisiana Science Education, which many observers suggest is an anti-science bill. Jindal knows better, but it is politically incorrect for him to put trust in the science educators of Louisiana who have opposed the Science Education Act since he signed it.  A former high school student, now an undergraduate at Rice University, has headed a campaign to change the Louisiana law.  Here is what I wrote about this activist science educator on this blog last month:

Zack Kopplin is an American science education activist. While he was a high school student at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, the Louisiana legislature passed the Louisiana Science Education Act signed by Governor Bobby Jindal. Zack Kopplin, who is now a history major at Rice University was very surprised that Governor Jindal signed this anti-science act, especially since Jindal has a degree in biology, and was a Rhodes Scholar. In his senior project, Kopplin initiated a campaign to repeal the Louisiana Act by recruiting Professor Barbara Forest, a philosophy professor who had testified in the 2005 Dover intelligent design/creationism case in Pennsylvania. He also teamed with Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson to write bills to repeal the act. Seventy-eight Nobel Laureates have also signed on to support Zack Kopplin. The AAAS and 70,000 people have signed his change.org petition.

Kopplin was interviewed by Bill Moyers. When Kopplin answered Moyers’ question, “What was it about the Louisiana Science Education Act that you didn’t like?, here is what Kopplin said:

Well, this law allows supplemental materials into our public school biology classrooms to quote, “critique controversial theories,” like evolution and climate change. Now, evolution and climate change aren’t scientifically controversial, but they are controversial to Louisiana legislators. And basically, everyone who looked at this law knew it was just a backdoor to sneak creationism into public school science classes.

Here is a clip from the full interview between Jindal and Kotb.  Its only three minutes, and I do suggest you watch it before going on.

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According to Jindal, evolution, global warming and climate change, creationism, and intelligent design should be taught in the science classroom in Louisiana schools.  In his view, we should teach the facts, and let the student decide what do believe.  Jindal, in his interview, put it this way:

We have what’s called the Science Education Act that says that if a teacher wants to supplement those materials, if the school board is okay with that, if the state school board is okay with that, they can supplement those materials. … Let’s teach them — I’ve got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism, that people, some people, have these beliefs as well, let’s teach them about ‘intelligent design’.” “What are we scared of?” he asked. (excerpted from the National Center for Science Education article, Jindal connects the dots.)

Jindal undermines the nature of science, and nature of science teaching when he make statements like these.  He undermines science teaching by ignoring the difference between science and religion, and being party to groups that disguise their intent of teaching creationism and intelligent design by spraying or crop dusting the legislatures with bills such as the Academic Freedom bill. Jindal claims that we should teach the facts of science to the kids in Louisiana.  The problem is,  I don’t think he knows the difference between a fact and a theory, or a law, or for that matter a religious belief.

What do you think about the remarks that Jindal made about the nature of science teaching?

Why Don’t Our Elected Representatives Write Their Own Legislation?

Update 3.22.2013: EmpowerEd Georgia reported that the Parent Trigger legislation in Georgia was tabled for this legislative session. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution story, the bill was pulled because it didn’t have the votes needed in the senate for passage.

Today, a committee in Georgia Senate will discuss the Parent Trigger Bill which has already passed the House. The bill will enable disgruntled parents of low performing school to fire the teaching and administrative staff and turn the school over to a for-profit charter management company paid with school district money.

House Bill 123 bill did not originate in Georgia. A similar parent trigger bill is before the Florida legislature. And you guessed it, the Florida bill did not originate in Florida. The same can said of the parent trigger bill in Oklahoma.  If you wonder just what the parent trigger bill really is, follow this link to Fund Education Now, an amazing website created by three parents and education advocates whose understanding of school reform research is far beyond what our legislators use to improve education.

As these Florida education advocates say, “something is being done to public education” and its important that politicians who are making it possible for public funds for education to move to the corporate sector realize that they are going to be challenged.

The bills were written by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  The parent trigger bills moving in and out of the legislatures in Georgia, Florida, and Oklahoma were written by ALEC. The legislators in these states only had to fill in the dates, the name of their states, and sign the legislation as if it were their own.  ALEC is a corporate-funded organization that works behind closed doors to create model bills that in the end favor corporate interests over the interests of the public sphere.   It’s goal is to promote the privatization of government services and that includes the public schools.

Schools and universities would call this plagiarism. Maybe it’s simply copying with permission. In either case is shows complete disregard for the citizens they represent. To some extent, the legislators are being dishonest, especially when they try to rationalize or explain the reason for the bill. They tell us that they are on the side of parents and their children, when in fact they are using children for the financial gain of private charter firms.

These elected legislators have no integrity in the way they are performing their responsibilities. In this case, the law they are trying to pass is not based a real or perceived need at the local school level. If it was, we would have data on the number of disgruntled parents who are marching and rallying to fire the staff and hire a charter management company.  It’s simply not happening.

Why don’t they write their own legislation? Groups, such as ALEC,  do all the work. The thinking of these legislators is shallow.  All they have to be able to do is read from a menu of model bills on the ALEC website, select a bill that they like, meet with national organization representatives and their lobbyists, and then send the bill to a house and senate committee in their own state.

In the case of the Parent Trigger act, Parent Revolution and ALEC have parent trigger model legislation on their websites.  You can read the Parent Revolution bill here, and the ALEC bill here.

Model Bill Menu–A One Stop Service Station for State Legislators

The American Legislative Exchange Council says it provides a “unique opportunity for legislators, business leaders and citizen organizations” to develop model policies based on academic research, existing state policy and proven business practices (American Legislative Exchange Council 2013).  It’s a goldmine for legislators who take the side of corporate interests over the citizens they represent.  If a legislator is a member of ALEC (there are about 2,000 state representatives on the roll), then you must realize that only 2% of the budget of ALEC comes from these legislators dues, and the rest comes from corporate sponsors.  There are too many corporate sponsors to list on this page.  However, here is a link to a page where you can scroll through the hundreds of corporate sponsors.

On this page, you can get access to brief descriptions of model bills, acts and amendments.  There are about 600 model bills on this page!  I decided to scroll through the hundreds of bills, and select some that relate to education.  I’ve also included several model bills that impinge of science and environmental education.

As you read through the bills that I’ve selected, it is clear that ALEC is in the business privatizing schools, and undermining teachers.  As I wrote in an earlier post, there is a clear attempt to commercialize education and exploit children and schooling further undoing the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy.

Over on the Center for Media and Democracy, you will find an exposé outlining the way ALEC is undermining education in a democratic society.  Following are some ways that ALEC is working to undermine public education.

Look for these in the bills that follow:

    • Offering vouchers with universal eligibility
    • Tax credits to parents who send their children to private schools
    • Preying on parents with children with special needs by using federal funds to subsidize untested for-profit schools
    • Segregating children on the basis on disabilities, race, and parental income.
    • Removing charter school authorization from local school districts and giving it to a state appointed commission
    • Staffing schools with uncertified teachers with little experience
    • Making it almost impossible for teachers to get tenure by basing it on student test score improvement
    • Supporting right-wing ideology by requiring courses that are propaganda forums
    • Promoting climate change denial
  1. Charter School Growth with Quality Act–set up a state charter school commission to serve as charter authorizer.  This act became law in Georgia last year with the help of outside billionaires sending money to the pro-bill organization headed by the legislator who pushed the bill through the Georgia legislature. The bill reinstated a commission that the Georgia Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional. It was a get back by the republicans who had their feelings hurt. The bill was opposed by John Barge, the republican Superintendent of Education. Barge was called a turncoat and liar by members of his own party. He’s to be admired.
  2. Civil Rights Act–affirmative action programs would be void.
  3. Education Savings Account Act–enables public funds from the school district to be used to in any program chosen by parents for their children
  4. Endangered Species Resolution–urges Congress to amend the Endangered Species Act to require a stronger role for the states and stronger consideration of the social and economic consequences of protecting species
  5. Environmental Literacy Improvement Act–this is a good one.  Teaching about the environment must be designed to “acquire” knowledge, taught in a “balanced” way (you know, if evolution, then evolution must be examined critically), not designed to change any student behavior, attitudes or value (this is the best one–what is the purpose of learning?)  By the way, this is the bill that created an Environmental Education Council, except no one can be on the committee if they have ability in environmental science!).
  6. Environmental Priorities Act–An assessment of all environmental priorities based on “good science” and “sound economics” shall be undertaken by people without a background in environmental science; the Environmental Priorities Council will have 2 politicians, a state administrator selected by the Governor, a member of the chamber of commerce, and an economist. No members should have backgrounds in environmental science.  Remember, the ALEC bills are based on “academic research.”
  7. Founding Philosophy and Principles Act–A bill requiring all students to take and pass a course in America’s founding philosophy based on The Creator-endowed rights of the people.  It appears to be endorsing a propaganda type course, and for me it glaringly omits the key words used in the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act, and that is “critical thinking.”  The content of this course is not be questioned.  The bill promotes right-wing ideology.
  8. Founding Principles Act–basically the same as the previous act requiring students to learn that in a short time, the 13 colonies became the greatest and most powerful nation on earth.  More right-wing ideology.
  9. Free Enterprise Education Act–this is another humdinger.  A course in economics (no complaint here), but based on the idea that to get out of the Great Recession, which was caused by illegal and immoral behavior of well-educated adults in the financial and housing industry, students must take a course that tells them how the free enterprise system works!  Ideology at work again.
  10. Great Teachers and Leaders Act–teacher tenure will be based on student growth on academic tests, and tenure can be removed if the teacher has two consecutive bad years.  This bill endorses unsubstantiated claims that teacher effectiveness can be measured using student academic test scores.  It is an anti-teacher and anti-adminstrator bill that further supports the degradation of public school educators.  Shame on any legislator that supports this bill.
  11. Hard Science Resolution–you must read this one.  This bill requires that any government regulation have a strict and absolute basis in hard scientific fact and cut any arbitrary and imprecise regulations that might harm the free-maker competition and consumers.
  12. Higher Education Transparency Act–In this bill, colleges and universities must make available on their website all syllabi, curriculum vitae of each instructor, a budget report, distribution of last grades, and the college must also give a report to the governor. All of this information is already available on higher education institutions websites.  This is a bill that encroaches on academic freedom, and adds a new role for the governor, and that is to evaluate undergraduate courses in paleontology!
  13. Indiana Education Reform Package–It calls for charter schools, school scholarships (vouchers), teacher evaluations and licensing, teacher collective bargaining (none), turnaround academies and textbook act.
  14. Parent Trigger Act–Enables parents or teachers (50% +1) to take over a school and replace it with a charter school.  The movement is deceptive and fraudulent and is simply a way to open the doors of struggling schools to charter management pirates.

There you have it.  Only 14 of the more than 600 bills on the ALEC website.  It no wonder that our legislators don’t write their own legislation.  They don’t have to.  All they have to do is: Go Ask ALEC.

What is your opinion about state legislators making use of the model bills on the ALEC website, and then introducing them in their own state legislature as if they were the authors, and that they were introducing the bill to resolve an important state issue?

 

References

American Legislative Exchange Council. (2013). Model Legislation. In American Legislative Exchange Council. Retrieved March 19, 2013, from http://www.alec.org/model-legislation/.

 

Evolution as Design

The world is flat; astronauts did not go to the moon; and the Earth is 10,000 years old.

A recent poll reported that very few people in the US accept the theory of evolution as a valid explanation for the creation of life on Earth. According to the National Center for Science Education, in a 24-country poll, 41% of the respondents identified themselves as “evolutionists” and 28% as “creationists”, and 31% indicating they don’t know what to believe. In the US, 28% were “evolutionists”, with the “creationist” view held by 40%. The evolution view was most popular in Sweden, with the U.S. ranking 18.

According to Edward O. Wilson, creation myths were Darwinian in nature in that just about all cultures devised myths for survival.  It gives members of society an explanation for human existence.  Wilson goes on to say:

Tribal conflict, where believers on the inside were pitted against infidels on the outside, was a principal driving force that shaped biological human nature. The truth of each myth lived in the heart, not in the rational mind. By itself, mythmaking could never discover the origin and meaning of humanity. But the reverse order is possible. The discovery of the origin and meaning of humanity might explain the origin and meaning of myths, hence the core of organized religion.  Wilson, Edward O. (2012-04-02). The Social Conquest of Earth (Kindle Locations 194-198). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Darwinian evolution and creation science (including intelligent design) are two world views, and Wilson asks if these worldviews can be reconciled?  His answer is no.  As he puts it:

Their opposition defines the difference between science and religion, between trust in empiricism and belief in the supernatural.  Wilson, Edward O. (2012-04-02). The Social Conquest of Earth (Kindle Locations 199-200). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Wilson explains that from the 1859 theory of natural selection by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace, science has provided in part the following:

There is a real creation story of humanity, and one only, and it is not a myth. It is being worked out and tested, and enriched and strengthened, step by step. Wilson, Edward O. (2012-04-02). The Social Conquest of Earth (Kindle Locations 224-225). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Science teachers, who work to offer a bridge between the world of science, and the world of youth have to give experiences in an environment that is open and not dogmatic.  Students come to school with scientific perceptions that have been built up and learned over time. Students arriving in 9th grade biology have constructed ideas about origins, inheritance, genes, cells, traits, and the relationship between natural selection and the environment. Because these ideas overlap with their religious beliefs and their family’s political beliefs, there is often a conflict for them about evolution, and other controversial ideas in science. The important notion is that students enter courses in science with beliefs about evolution, climate change, and global warming, and each of these ideas has become politicized by various advocacy groups, and of course, the press.

Building on students prior knowledge is one of the guiding principles that teachers and researchers have discovered as crucial to deep learning.  Work in the field of the learning sciences has shown that one of the best ways for students to learn is in classrooms where teachers build on their prior knowledge.  In the context of teaching evolutionary theory, students views on evolution are probably not very different from the adult population’s acceptance of the theory of evolution as a valid explanation of the origin of life.  Research by Ron Anderson suggests that it is a mistake to ignore students’ world views which may conflict with the scientific worldview of the origin of life.  As I’ve suggested here, it flies in the face of constructivist learning and the learning sciences.

Science and religion are two differing world views.  But because we have created a curriculum that compartmentalized knowledge and study, science teachers are put in a precarious position.  Although we have experimented with interdisciplinary curriculum and study, science is taught in science class, and religion is taught in social science courses.  Although I agree with Wilson that science and religion cannot be reconciled, it’s not a valid pedagogical strategy to ignore the interactions in student’s minds about origins.

Unfortunately, for more than a century, the teaching of evolution has been politicized.  The famous Scopes Trial is the embodiment of the cultural war that succeeds to this day.  In the 1970s creation science made its way into schools, only to be rebuffed by the courts.  Intelligent design is a form of creationism, and especially promoted by the Discovery Institute.  Politicians and state and local school board members have worked in concert with the Discovery Institute to pass laws either suggesting that I.D. be taught alongside evolution, or that “controversial” scientific theories such as evolution, global warming, and cloning be scrutinized under the banner of “academic freedom bills.”

 

Click on Darwin Two Pound Coin to go to Evolution as Design

Evolution by Design is a new eBook exploring how the teaching of evolution has become a rallying cry for conservatives and religious fundamentalists who think that creationism or intelligent design should be considered along and be given equal time as evolution.  Creationism and intelligent design have been rejected by one court decision after another, but the forces behind this movement are still lurking.

They have made stealth appearances in Louisiana and Tennessee classrooms.   Over the past four years, these two states have passed laws that protect teachers if they present scientific information about the full range of scientific views about biological and chemical evolution in applicable curricula or in a course of learning.

Behind these two laws is the Discovery Institute, a non-science propaganda organization whose chief purpose is to attack Darwinian evolution, and wedge intelligent design into the science curriculum. Foiled by the courts to pull a fast one and claim that I.D. is science, the Discovery Institute now hides behind its new campaign of preserving the ”academic freedom” of teachers.

The academic freedom bills that were passed in Louisiana (2008), and Tennessee (2012) disguise their intent of teaching creationism and intelligent design using clever and slick language that they are coming to the rescue of science teachers by passing a law that protects teachers’ academic freedom to present lessons questioning and critiquing scientific theories being studied including but not limited to evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning. Kind of a poor “Trojan horse” scenario, don’t you think? Where is the theory of gravity, plate tectonics, and atomic theory on their to do list?

Evolution by Design is comprised of four chapters

  • The Law of Evolution: The title of this section comes from a statement made by James Watson in which he said, “Lets not beat around the bush–the common assumption that evolution through natural selection is a “theory “in the same way as string theory is a theory is wrong. EVOLUTION IS A LAW (with several components) that is as well substantiated as any other natural law, whether the Law of Gravity, the Laws of Motion, or Avogadro’s Law.”
  • Evolution in the States:  Over the past decade the evolution wars have been played out in a number of states, including: Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana.  We take a look at these events.
  • Intelligent Design.  I.D. is creationism in disguise, and has been used as a wedge to get into the science curriculum as an alternative to Darwinian evolution.  We ask what Darwin would think, and why a judge ruled that I.D. is not science.
  • Teaching Evolution: Teaching evolution in church, teaching science “critically,” and issues that teachers face in the classroom.

A Kindle edition of Evolution as Design is available on Amazon, and is free through August 14, 2012.