The Louisiana Science Education Act came under harsh criticism on Monday at a symposium entitled “Yes, Bobby, evolution is real!” The symposium was a part of the Botanical Society of America Conference held in New Orleans.
The law, enacted in 2008, specifically allows public school teachers in the state to use “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.” Panelists at the symposium argued that the LSEA allows creationism to be taught in science classes in Louisiana schools. The law does not explicitly ban the study of creationism, though it does state that teachers may not “promote any religious doctrine” in their classes.
“It’s not about teaching science. It’s about sneaking creationism into the classroom,” said Zack Kopplin, a political activist and student at Rice University who led a session at the symposium about LSEA. “You don’t need a law to teach critical thinking in science,” he continued.
Critics of the law argue that it was developed by religious conservative groups to circumvent court decisions against laws that specifically allow the teaching of creationism. At the symposium, Kopplin and other speakers suggested that the LSEA turned Louisiana into an “international laughingstock.”
“[Schools that support creationism] are a problem with evolution education around the country, and coming down here [to New Orleans], that was an obvious touch point,” said Dr. Marsh Sundberg, a professor and organizer of the symposium.
The Louisiana Department of Education maintains that no data exists to suggest that schools in the state are teaching creationism, and no complaints have been brought to their attention regarding the issue. Activists attempted to repeal the LSEA in May, but failed to do so.