Two flashpoints for debate in education circles are vouchers and teaching creationism. Well, today I’ve found a way to combine them in one blog post. The Associated Press is reporting that some Louisiana private schools participating in the state’s new voucher program reject evolution and instead teach creationism.
The story says that several religious schools that will enroll children with support from state-subsidized vouchers have touted their creationist views.
Louisiana state Superintendent John White told the Associated Press that all voucher students must take the state’s science test, which will help ensure that they are getting an appropriate science education.
“If students are failing the test, we’re going to intervene, and the test measures [understanding of] evolution,” Superintendent White told the AP.
But critics say it’s not appropriate for public dollars to support teaching creationism.
As many readers may be aware, Louisiana for years has been a focal point for debate over teaching evolution in schools. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a state law that required public schools to balance the teaching of evolution with creationism, the biblical belief that God created the universe and all living things. More recently, in 2008, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the Louisiana Science Education Act. The legislation’s stated goal is to foster an environment in public schools that “promotes critical-thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” Critics say the law is essentially a backdoor means of inserting religious views into science classrooms through the promotion of creationism or intelligent design.
Once again in 2010, evolution sparked debate when critics of a state textbook adoption for science complained that the materials fail to provide information questioning evolution.
A draft of common science standards that are being developed in collaboration with 26 states makes clear that evolution is a core principle for understanding the life sciences. (Louisiana is not one of the 26 “lead states,” but Kansas, another state with a history of debate over teaching evolution, is.)
The draft document was guided by a framework developed by the National Research Council. And the NRC report, written by a panel of experts in science and education, was emphatic in its view: “Evolution and its underlying genetic mechanisms of inheritance and variability are key to understanding both the unity and the diversity of life on Earth.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.