I found out just this weekend that there is a grassroots movement in the state of Louisiana to repeal its so-called “academic freedom” law. Now why would anyone want to be against academic freedom? Because, plain and simple, these kinds of laws are nothing more than a front for pushing nonsense pseudoscience (specifically creationism) in public science classes.
**Aside: For reference, Louisiana is currently the only state in the United States which has a so-called “academic freedom” law, but you can be sure that creationists have their eye on moving things in the same direction in other states (such as in Oklahoma, where a similar bill is under consideration).
The big problem with the “academic freedom” language, which sounds good on the surface, is that it is intended solely as a vehicle to get non-science & pseudoscientific ideas into the public science classroom. In this sense, it is the latest variation on the old, debunked “teach both (all) theories” or “teach the controversy” tactics employed by creationists in years past. The intent behind the term “academic freedom” suffers from the same errors as these previous versions: it elevates blatant non-science (or pseudoscience) to the same level as established science, and this leads to all manner of confusion in students. Would we consider doing this in, say, a history class whereby we allow teachers the “academic freedom” to teach Holocaust denialism on an equal level with the well-established history of the Nazis & World War II?
In my opinion, the “academic freedom” laws are even worse than their progenitors, because since they are so broadly worded (and not limited explicitly to science) they could be applied to any subject. Hence, my made-up scenario about Holocaust denial above could conceivably be protected under such a law, even though Holocaust denial is utter rubbish & nothing more than racist historical revisionism. Taken to the logical conclusion, such laws basically take the notion of objective reality and toss it right out the proverbial window.
On the up side, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is a grassroots effort to repeal the law in Louisiana. Check it out, and please consider lending whatever support you are able (even if it is only to spread the word)…
High School Student Launches Campaign to Repeal Louisiana’s Creationism Law
Building upon a grassroots effort last winter that was successful in fighting off efforts to insert creationism into Louisiana science textbooks, Baton Rouge Magnet High School Senior Zack Kopplin is helping lead an effort to have the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) repealed during the Louisiana Legislature’s 2011 Regular Session. State Senator Karen Carter Peterson (New Orleans) has announced that she will sponsor the repeal legislation.
The misnamed and misguided Louisiana Science Education Act, which was passed and signed into law in 2008, is stealth legislation to encourage Louisiana public school science teachers to include creationist materials in their curriculum. In Livingston Parish Louisiana, school board members explicitly cited this law last summer in their push to mandate that creationism be made part of the science curriculum for the 2011-12 school year.
“State of Belief,” a radio program sponsored by Interfaith Alliance, recently featured a dialogue about the repeal effort between Kopplin and Welton Gaddy who is the President of Interfaith Alliance and a Baptist minister from Monroe, Louisiana. Dr. Barbara Forrest, co-founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science also was featured on the show. The interview aired Feb, 13, and can be listened to here. Gaddy said of Kopplin’s repeal effort,
It represents the the best thinking in American science, the best thinking in American religion, and it also reflects the United States constitution.
Kopplin’s role in this campaign was recently featured in an Op-Ed titled “Student takes role of David to creationists’ legislative Goliath” in The Lens, which wrote
Kopplin rightly views the legislation as costumed creationism – ridiculous Trojan horse legislation that lets instructors teach scientific “controversies” where none exist. He understands that when pseudo-scientific “supplemental” materials are used to critique scientific theories (such as evolution or gravity), a false balance results: ungrounded speculations are placed on par with the overwhelming scientific consensus.