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Information Suppressed on Louisiana Science Education Act and Evolution by Louisiana Newspaper

The following information was suppressed by Louisiana Advocate reporter Will Sentell in his story titled "La. alone with controversial science law." Contrary to Sentell's report, Louisiana is definitely not alone in promoting the critical analysis of evolution.

This background information was sent to Mr. Sentell after he interviewed Casey Luskin of Discovery Institute and before he filed his article. But he apparently didn't want to let the facts get in the way of his story:


STATE AND LOCAL POLICIES SUPPORTING CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF EVOLUTION

As of 2008, eight states have adopted statewide laws or science standards that (1) encourage or require critical analysis of evolution or (2) protect the freedom of teachers to present scientific criticisms of evolution. In addition, in at least three states, local school districts have adopted such policies.

STATE LAWS

Louisiana
"The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon request of a city, parish, or other local public school board, shall allow and assist teachers, principals, and other school administrators to create and foster an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." Louisiana Science Education Act, enacted in June 2008.

Mississippi
"No local school board, school superintendent or school principal shall prohibit a public school classroom teacher from discussing and answering questions from individual students on the origin of life." House Bill No. 214, enacted into law in 2006.


STATE SCIENCE STANDARDS

Alabama
"[E]volution by natural selection is a controversial theory. ... Instructional material associated with controversy should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered." Alabama State Board of Education, Resolution (Nov. 8, 2001), available at http://www.alsde.edu/html/boe_resolutions2.asp?id=309.

Minnesota
"The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models including... [the] theory of evolution...." Minnesota Academic Standards, History and Nature of Science, Grades 9-12, available at tis.mpls.k12.mn.us/Science.html (last visited Sept. 9, 2005).

Missouri
"Identify and analyze current theories that are being questioned, and compare them to new theories that have emerged to challenge older ones (e.g., Theory of Evolution...)." Missouri Science Standards, at http://www.dese.mo.gov/divimprove/curriculum/GLE/SciGLE_FINAL-4.2005.pdf.

New Mexico
Students will "critically analyze the data and observations supporting the conclusion that the species living on Earth today are related by descent from the ancestral one-celled organisms." New Mexico Science Content Standards, Benchmarks and Performance Standards, Standard II (Life Science) (Biological Evolution) (9).

Pennsylvania
"Critically evaluate the status of existing theories (e.g., germ theory of disease, wave theory of light, classification of subatomic particles, theory of evolution, epidemiology of AIDS)." Pennsylvania, Academic Standards for Science and Technology, Standard 3.2.12.

South Carolina
"Summarize ways that scientists use data from a variety of sources to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." South Carolina Biology Science Standards, indicator B-5.6 available at: http://www.myscschools.com/offices/cso/standards/science/documents/ScienceStandardsNov182005trackingremovedwbiofootnote_000.doc


LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT POLICIES

Grantsburg, Wisconsin (2004)
"Students shall be able to explain the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. This policy does not call for the teaching of Creationism or Intelligent Design."

Ouachita Parish, Louisiana (2006)
Ouachita Parish Science Curriculum Policy Adopted November 29, 2006

RESOLUTION ON TEACHER ACADEMIC FREEDOM TO TEACH SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE REGARDING CONTROVERSIAL SCIENTIFIC SUBJECTS:

WHEREAS, the Louisiana Constitution declares that among the legitimate ends of government is "to promote the education of the people" (1), and;

WHEREAS, Congress in 2001 declared that "Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society." (2), and;

WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that it is possible for "scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories [to] be taught" (3), and;

WHEREAS, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has found that it is legitimate for school districts to pass curricular policies for such purposes as advancing critical thinking, fostering informed freedom of belief, and to disclaim any intent to impose an orthodoxy of belief on students (4), and;

WHEREAS, diverse organizations including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and American Civil Liberties Union have acknowledged that "any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught" (5), and;

WHEREAS, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has promulgated certain Science Framework, and;

WHEREAS, the Louisiana Science Framework at page 11 holds that, "scientific information is continuously open to review and modification" (6), and;

WHEREAS, the Louisiana Science Framework at page 11 further states that, "for scientific ideas to become widely accepted, peers must review, analyze, and critique results" (7), and;

WHEREAS, the Louisiana Science Framework at page 19 declares that, "the process of scientific inquiry involves 'thinking critically and logically about the relationships between evidence and explanations, constructing and analyzing alternative explanations, and communicating scientific arguments'" (8), and;

WHEREAS, the Louisiana Science Framework at page 12 indicates that science should be "presented as a... continuing process for extending understanding of the ultimate, unalterable truth" (9), and;

WHEREAS, it has come to the attention of this Board that some science teachers in the parish school system are uncertain of what can be taught about particular scientific theories;

THEREFORE, the Board of Education of Ouachita Parish School District adopts the following policy and directs that it be inserted in the District's listing of curriculum and instruction policies which is posted online at www.opsb.net.

TEACHER ACADEMIC FREEDOM IN SCIENCE EDUCATION WHEN COVERING CONTROVERSIAL SCIENTIFIC SUBJECTS:

The Ouachita School District understands that the purpose of science education is to inform students about the scientific evidence and to help them develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become scientifically minded citizens. The District also understands that the teaching of some scientific subjects, such as biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the District's expectations concerning how they should present information on such subjects.

The District shall endeavor to create an environment within the schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately to differences of opinion about controversial issues. The District shall also endeavor to assist teachers to find more effective ways to present the science curriculum where it addresses scientific controversies. Toward this end, teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.

Notes
(1) Louisiana Constitution, Preamble; (2) H.R. 1 -- "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001": Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference, Title I, Part A, item 78, edworkforce.house.gov; (3) Edwards v. Aguillard, 107 S.Ct. 2573, 2583 (1987); (4) Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education, 185 F.3d 337, 344-46 (5th Cir. 1999); (5) Joint Statement of Current Law on Religion in the Public Schools (4/12/1995) Religion In The Public Schools: A Joint Statement Of Current Law http://www.aclu.org/religion/schools /16146leg19950412.html (Accessed July 20, 2006); (6) Louisiana Science Framework, page 11; (7) Ibid; (8) Ibid, page 19; (9) Ibid, page 12.
http://www.opsb.net/downloads/forms/Ouachita_Parish_Science_Curriculum_Policy.pdf

Lancaster, California (2006)
Lancaster School District Science Philosophy

The Science curriculum of the Lancaster School District is standards-based and reflects the fundamental belief, as stated in the 2004 Science Framework, "that all students can acquire the science knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the world that awaits them." To provide students with a high degree of science literacy the following expectations should be met:

The goal of science education is to encourage inquiry, investigation and understanding.
The domain of the natural sciences is the natural world. Science is limited by its tools--observable facts and testable hypotheses.

The character of science is open to inquiry. The curriculum promotes student understanding of how we come to know what we know and how we test and revise our thinking.

To be fully informed citizens, students do not have to accept everything that is taught in the natural science curriculum, but they should understand the major strands of scientific thought, including its methods, facts, hypotheses, theories and laws.
Students should learn that science never commits itself irrevocably to any fact, hypothesis, or theory, no matter how firmly it appears to be established. Evolution, then, should be taught as theory, as opposed to unalterable fact. Discussions that question the theory may be appropriate as long as they do not stray from the current criteria of scientific fact, hypothesis and theory. Science instruction must respect the private beliefs of students, but discussion in this regard should not be part of the science curriculum.

Students are given opportunities to construct the important ideas of science, which are then developed in depth, through inquiry and investigation.

The three basic scientific fields of study--earth, life and physical sciences--are taught and connections among them developed.

Science is presented with its applications in technology and its implications for society.
Science is presented in connection with the students' own experiences and interests, frequently using hands-on experiences that are integral to the instructional sequence.
Instructional strategies and materials allow several levels and pathways of access so that all students can experience both challenge and success.

Textbooks are the major, but not sole, source of the curriculum; everyday materials and laboratory equipment, video and software, as well as other printed materials such as reference books and periodicals provide a substantial part of the student experience.

Assessment programs should be aligned with the standards-based instructional program. Student performance and investigation play the same central role in assessment as they do in instruction.