June 2015 Church & State | People & Events

Teachers and school board members have been scheming to push creationism in Louisiana public schools, a recent investigation asserts. 

Science education activist and Americans United ally Zack Kopplin found that some Bayou State educators are doing all they can – including skirting the law – to force fundamentalist dogma into science classes. Kopplin detailed his findings in an article for Slate, in which he said he has evidence of a coordinated effort to bring anti-science, biblical literalist dogma into schools.

“I have evidence that it’s not just one teacher,” Kopplin wrote. “I have evidence that religion, not science, is what’s being taught systematically in some Louisiana school systems. I have obtained emails from creationist teachers and school administrators, as well as a letter signed by more than 20 current and former Louisiana science teachers in Ouachita Parish in which they say they challenge evolution in the classroom without legal ‘tension or fear’ because of pro-creationism policies.”

In the letter signed by teachers in Ouachita Parish, the word “creationism” is never used, but it is clear these educators intend to give it at least equal weight with evolution.

“We, the undersigned science educators in Ouachita Parish, have seen a positive impact on our students as a result of the Ouachita Parish School Board’s Science Curriculum Policy…. We are able to scientifically answer questions and show how widely held ‘theories’ have discrepancies in them,” they wrote.

That widely held “theory” is evolution, and it is clear that these rogue teachers are using the idea of academic debate as an opportunity to thrust creationism into the classroom in the hope that they can undermine evolution.

As for Ouachita’s policy, which was created in 2006 and obtained by Kopplin, it states teachers are able to “review, analyze, and critique in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses” of theories that “may generate controversy (such as biological evolution).”

Kopplin said he obtained emails from Ouachita Parish that offer more evidence that creationism runs rampant there. He said two teachers at West Monroe High shared some of the questions that they ask their students in an attempt to promote reasoning skills. One question they employed was: “Name an evolutionary change that would support both the big bang theory and creationism?” The answer: “snake leg nubbs” (sic).

One former Ouachita science teacher who is now an administrator, Danny Pennington, created an anti-evolution DVD. It consists of footage of Pennington undermining evolution in the classroom. A creationist named Charles Voss who saw the DVD told Pennington in an email obtained by Kopplin: “The DVD you made in the classroom is needed to show what a teacher can do in a single period. You literally destroyed evolution in one 40-minute period.”

None of this would be possible without the support of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He pushed the Lou­isiana Science Education Act, which despite its name, actually lets teachers attack science by including in their curriculum “supplementary” materials that are critical of evolution. Kopplin has fought for years to repeal this law but has not yet succeeded.