A Win In Louisiana: Textbook Council Backs Bona Fide Biology Books

Could officials in Louisiana finally be ready to listen to the experts, instead of Religious Right zealots?

We have some good news out of Louisiana today – news we can hardly believe.

By a vote of 8-4, the state’s Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council voted to support biology textbooks that uphold sound science and do not allow fundamentalist religious concepts to interfere.

For once, Louisiana has provided a glimmer of hope that maybe it no longer wants to be a science-education laughing stock.

As I mentioned last week, the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) opposed proposed new science textbooks, claiming they give too much credibility to Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The LFF, a Religious Right organization that promotes creationism including its current variant “intelligent design,” said the books were not in keeping with the Science Education Act, a measure that allows teachers to introduce into the classroom “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials” about evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.

On Friday, in response to the LFF’s complaints, the advisory council met for a hearing to review the issue and make a recommendation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

AU experts and our allies in the state were concerned that the hearing was simply another chance for the LFF to chip away at evolution and sound science curriculum.

As AU Trustee Barbara Forrest wrote on her blog, “Past experience – which has been utterly and entirely consistent since the introduction and passage of the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) in 2008 – suggested that this meeting would be just another railroad job.”

Forrest, a Southeastern Louisiana University professor and co-founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, cited to the state’s previous disregard for science education.

In 2008, the legislature adamantly passed the Science Education Act, after the measure was heavily pushed by the LFF. Then, the state allowed LFF activists to take control of a policy that would implement the Act as well as the review procedure for handling any future complaints over the “supplemental materials” to be used by schools.

That’s why there was little reason to believe Friday’s hearing would be any different. Luckily, we were pleasantly surprised the council shot down the LFF’s complaints.

Instead, teachers, scientists and students who testified in support of the textbooks took home a victory. According to the Associated Press, most of those who testified at the hearing wanted to teach evolution without the interference of religious concepts.

“There is no major research university in this country that teaches intelligent design or anything like that. It is simply not science," Kevin Carman, dean of the LSU College of Science told the AP. "We need our textbooks to be focused on what is scientifically accurate and not religion."

Could officials in Louisiana finally be ready to listen to the experts, instead of Religious Right zealots? We really hope so – but it is probably too soon to call.

In any case, we’ll gladly accept this win.