Last Modified: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 1:07 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Taxpayer dollars in Louisiana's new voucher program will be paying to send children to schools that teach creationism and reject evolution, promoting a religious doctrine that challenges the lessons central to public school science classrooms.
Several religious schools that will be educating taxpayer-subsidized students tout their creationist views. Some schools question whether the universe is more than a few thousand years old, openly defying reams of scientific evidence to the contrary.
Critics say it's inappropriate to spend public money on such religious teaching, arguing such programs undercut a strong science education and threaten the adequate preparation of students for college science courses.
"What they're going to be getting financed with public money is phony science. They're going to be getting religion instead of science," said Barbara Forrest, a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science and a philosophy professor who has written about the clashes between religion and science.
Superintendent of Education John White says annual science tests required of all voucher students in the third through 11th grades will determine if children are getting the appropriate science education in the private school classrooms.
"If students are failing the test, we're going to intervene, and the test measures evolution," White said.
Refusal to teach evolution or challenging it as refutable won't get a school booted from the voucher program, which was pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal as a way to improve educational opportunities for students in schools ranked with a C, D or F in the public school grading system.
For example, a handbook for Ascension Christian High School, posted online, declares among the goals of "Household of Faith Schools" that "the learner will be expected to defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible versus traditional scientific theory."
Ten voucher students have been assigned to Ascension Christian, along with another 41 voucher students for another Household of Faith school, Faith Academy. The schools, located in Ascension Parish, are set to receive more than $250,000 from the state.
A biology teacher at Northlake Christian High School, a St. Tammany Parish school slated to teach 18 voucher students this school year, outlines his curriculum on a website that talks of giving students the opportunity to challenge evolution against "a creation worldview of life origins."
The website contradicts fossil evidence of millions of years of life on the planet, calling it incompatible with the Bible. Meanwhile, the school's doctrinal statement says Northlake Christian — which will get $375,000 in state-funded tuition payments for its high school and elementary school — promotes "the creation of man by the direct act of God."
College student Zack Kopplin, an outspoken critic of teaching creationism in science classrooms, found at least 19 of the 119 mostly religious schools in the voucher program either promote creationism or teach with curricula from Christian textbook publishers that are known to challenge Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
The schools cited by Kopplin's research have been approved to take in more than 750 voucher students and receive more than $4 million in taxpayer funding, in the first round of announced voucher assignments for the 2012-13 school year that begins next month.
Several of the schools use A Beka Book for their instructional materials. A description for a fifth-grade science textbook from the Florida-based publisher describes the world as "presented as the creation of God and glorifies Him as its Sustainer and Upholder."
"This teachable, readable and memorable book presents the universe as the direct creation of God and refutes the man-made idea of evolution," says the description of a sixth-grade science book, posted on A Beka's website. An eighth-grade textbook is described as rejecting "the unproven hypothesis of evolution, recognizing special creation as the only reasonable explanation for the origin of the universe."
Before the voucher program, Louisiana's had a series of controversies about science teaching.
A law mandating that "creationism" be given equal time in public school classrooms with evolution was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987 as an effort to promote religion.
The state now has a law that allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials in their classrooms in addition to state-approved textbooks. Guidelines adopted by the state education board ban the promotion of a religious doctrine in the supplemental materials, but without a specific ban on the teaching of creationism.
Jindal, who holds a college degree in biology, has supported the teaching of creationism, saying the theory of evolution has "flaws and gaps."
The rules governing Louisiana's voucher program give the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education oversight over the curricula used by participating private and parochial schools. White said BESE will make sure the standards are of an equitably quality to public schools.
"In the event that there is basic academic incompetence, the state (education) department can intervene," he said. "The most effective way of testing all of this is to literally see what do the students know and what do they achieve, and we're doing that through the state test."
Forrest and Kopplin said since the schools are receiving public money, their textbooks and teaching material should be available for public review, a proposal that hasn't been adopted by BESE.
Posted By: Mary B On: 7/31/2012
Title: I APPROVE!
@ Brandt Hardin.....The wonderful thing for you then is this is a Louisiana educational change with Louisiana money, making changes for Louisiana people, by folks elected by Louisiana people. Not sure how this ties into TN, but thanks for reading our news...I guess
Posted By: Christopher Marceaux On: 7/30/2012
Title: This is Great!!!
I could not afford to send my kids to a private school for them to be taught "CORRECTLY" even though both my wife and have both maintained a full time job. I am a firefighter and she has worked at the casino for years. Still the education we want taught is out of our financial range. I am elated that we have options now. With this I can send my child to a school that teaches our values and beliefs and no longer stuck with only one option, that of a far left progressive vision. Once they learn that, we have to then "unteach" what they were instructed. Informing them it's one side of the roads view so know the answers for testing simply to get the grades, but understand this is taught only in public schools because leftism won the court battle but it doesn't make it truth
Posted By: Brandt Hardin On: 7/30/2012
Title: The Dumbing Down of America
Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.
Posted By: Jim On: 7/30/2012
Title: Here's one for the Books
If it were not for the evolution of creationism none of us would be here, and therefore there certainly wouldn't be any purpose in scientific theories sponsored by agnostics. The fact remains; there is far more proof that God exists than there is in time waisted on scientific theories that He doesn't. Quite honestly I've yet to see any hard core evidence of a fish swimming in the water, growing legs and then walking on land; followed by growing a tail and hanging in a tree--then becoming a man. Of course I have read many articles recently that lead me to believe some folks may have been sitting in a tree and fallen from it onto their heads.
Another fact, NO child has ever failed at anything where God was in it--and allowed to be there. Hence the need for prayer back in school! And if prayer is not allowed in public schools, then bring on more private schools.