The other day I wrote about the ongoing disgrace of the Louisiana school voucher program, which – among other bad outcomes – will soon be pouring millions in taxpayer funds into the coffers of fundamentalist Christian schools, some of which teach that dinosaurs might still be alive and the Great Depression wasn’t so bad after all.
I have sometimes opined that Louisiana may be just about the worst state in the country when it comes to public education and church-state separation. But I may have to apologize to the residents of the Pelican State: The Commonwealth of Kentucky has decided to give Louisiana a run for that dubious title.
On Aug. 13, the Kentucky legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education held a hearing. It was a very sorry affair indeed.
Four years ago, Kentucky legislators voted to tie the state’s testing program to national education standards, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader. But now some of them are having second thoughts because the national science standards stress (gasp!) evolution.
“I would hope that creationism is presented as a theory in the classroom, in a science classroom, alongside evolution,” Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) told the newspaper.
I wouldn’t hope that if I were you, senator. Any public schools in Kentucky caught doing that are going to be sued. Your friends in Louisiana tried that tactic back in the 1980s and lost at the U.S. Supreme Court.
And, oh, senator, you might have heard of a case Americans United co-litigated against the Dover, Pa., school district when board members decided to teach “intelligent design,” a gussied-up variant of creationism. The school lost that one, too – and ended up paying hefty legal fees.
Givens at least pretends to want “balanced treatment.” His colleague, Rep. Ben Waide (R-Madisonville), decided to go one better. He seems to want to kick out evolution all together.
“The theory of evolution is a theory, and essentially the theory of evolution is not science – Darwin made it up,” Waide said. “My objection is they should ensure whatever scientific material is being put forth as a standard should at least stand up to scientific method. Under the most rudimentary, basic scientific examination, the theory of evolution has never stood up to scientific scrutiny.”
(In case you’re wondering, Waide is not a biologist, an anthropologist or a scientist of any kind. He is a physical therapist with a bachelor’s degree in health science.)
Some Kentucky residents are bravely trying to stanch the gushing torrent of ignorance pouring out of their legislature.
Asked to comment on the matter, Vincent Cassone, chairman of the University of Kentucky’s Biology Department, told the Herald-Leader, “The theory of evolution is the fundamental backbone of all biological research. There is more evidence for evolution than there is for the theory of gravity, than the idea that things are made up of atoms, or Einstein's theory of relativity. It is the finest scientific theory ever devised.”
Givens and Waide might want to spend some time at Casson’s university. If they did that, they would quickly learn that top-flight public universities don’t bother to give “balanced treatment” to science and fundamentalist religion masquerading as science. They teach what the evidence shows to be factual: evolution.
Kentucky legislators have a choice. They can instruct the state’s public schools to acknowledge this reality and retain evolution in the science standards, or they can continue down the path of constitutional disaster and scientific illiteracy. They can support sound science or continue throwing tax money at creationist “Ark Parks” and ensuring that the commonwealth’s young people are left behind in a technology-based world economy.
What’s it going to be, Kentucky?