In December, the state auditor of Louisiana recommended more accountability measures for the private school voucher program, including some non-fiscal measures like ensuring participating schools are “academically acceptable.”
“Academically acceptable” could mean a lot of different things, and it’s worth debating. To longtime Louisiana columnist James Gill, there is apparently only one litmus test and only one conclusion to draw.
To use his direct words: “Schools that deny evolution can only churn out ignoramuses, which seems an odd way to spend the public dollar.”
The comment is as inflammatory as it is absurd, and we shouldn’t mistake this as an informed position on education policy.
Let’s just forget for the moment about Louisiana’s “Academic Freedom Act,” which still allows creationism (along with other origin theories/myths) to be taught in public schools. That law was passed in 2008 and amends a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Louisiana Law requiring Bible-based creationism to have equal time in public classroom with evolution.
While creationism has long been a part of private (and public) school education in the U.S., we should remember that evolution is a chapter within biology textbooks at the high school level. And while learning creationism may put college-bound students behind their peers in biology class, one bad science course does not make anyone an ignoramus.
Faith-based schools should give factual explanations of what leading scientists have discovered, as challenging one’s own beliefs is an integral part of education. That said, banning schools that teach creationism might work to the detriment of students who may be well-served by the school’s instruction in other subjects, such as literature, mathematics and languages.
I welcome a more rational, less caustic, debate about requiring evolution in private schools, but let’s get kids proficient in basic reading and math before we elevate the importance of a specific topic within a single course.
Grade: Needs Improvement