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Freedom to Teach

Freedom to Teach

School Board OKs Teaching Both Sides of Scientific Controversies

CENTRAL — The Central Community School Board adopted a new Science Policy Monday night designed to provide science teachers greater academic freedom, according to school board member Jim Lloyd, who authored the policy.

Under the policy, teachers will be able to teach about controversies in science, such as evolution, global warming, and human cloning, Lloyd said.

Although the policy was expected to draw some opposition, no one testified against it, and the school board voted 6-0 in favor of the new policy.  Central became the second Louisiana school system to adopt such a policy.  The Ouachita Parish School System was the first.

The policy takes advantage of the Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008, which was passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Jindal.   That legislation says its purpose is to “promote critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussions of scientific theories being studied,”

Lloyd said the purpose of the new policy is to help provide Central’s students pursue a premiere science education.

“The President told us, ‘Our quality of science education lags behind that of many other nations,’ and it is important that our science education should distinguish between the data and testable theories of science on the one hand, and unproven philosophical claims made in the name of science on the other hand,” he said.

In his statement, Lloyd said, “Not long ago, the Association of Professional Educators of Louisiana polled its members and learned that a large percentage of them welcomed guidance concerning how to better teach controversial science subjects.  The following year, Supt. Bob Webber of the Ouachita Parish School System quietly surveyed his own science teachers and learned that 100 percent welcomed some specific guidance on this issue.”

“That led to a unanimous adoption of the Science Curriculum Policy by the Ouachita school system.  The policy passed constitutional scrutiny by the board’s legal counsel, and it has received no legal challenges.  Regarding its popularity, Mickey Cleveland, a representative of the Ouachita school system, is here tonight with a letter signed by 20 Ouachita science teachers expressing appreciation for the academic freedom afforded by that resolution.”

Lloyd said, “There is false belief that it is unconstitutional to teach criticisms of topics such as evolution, when the Constitution does the opposite.  It actually prohibits the censoring of scientific ideas.  Teaching the controversy is legal and legitimate.  The ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State both agree that ‘Any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught.’”

“Using scientific disagreements over topics such as evolution to help students learn more about how science deals with controversy is a valuable part of the learning process. Public schools have broad discretion in developing curricula.  Evolution is currently taught uncritically.”

“A ‘Teach-the-Controversy’ approach helps both advocates and critics of evolutionary theory to have a better understanding of the claims of evolution and its supporting evidence.  Teaching this and all subjects objectively means presenting both the scientific evidence for and against each theory.”

“The debate is really about Science vs. Science,” he said.

Lloyd said the Louisiana Science Education Act has not been challenged in the courts and appears to meet constitutional standards.

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