Echoes of Dover

 

This is good. Today I received another edition of Reports of the National Center for Science Education. I send money to the NCSE. You should, too.

The previous edition included an item in the Updates section concerning a company called Responsive Ed. Responsive Ed “operates operates more than sixty-five charter schools in Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana, and receives more than $82 million in public funds to do so.” The problem is, when it comes to science, the Responsive Ed curriculum contains a wad of anti-science and a hefty dose of religion:

When public-school students enrolled in ‘Texas’[s] largest charter program open their biology workbooks, they will read that the fossil record is “sketchy”. That evolution is “dogma” and an “unproved theory” with no experimental basis. They will be told that leading scientists dispute the mechanisms of evolution and the age of the earth. ‘These are all lies.

Texas does not own a lock on these shenanigans. The newest edition of Reports features an item about our neighbor state, Louisiana. As before, I will post the item in its entirety:

Louisiana: A sixth-grade teacher’s advocacy of creationism is at the center of a lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on January 22, 2014. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana on behalf of Scott Lane, Sharon Lane, and their three children, including their son, CC, a Buddhist of Thai heritage. Documents from the case, Lane et al v Sabine Parish School Board et al, are available from the ACLU’s website (https://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/lane-v-sabine-parish-school-board).

According to the complaint, CC’s former sixth-grade teacher “treats the Bible as scientific fact, telling students that the Big Bang never happened and that evolution is a ‘stupid’ theory that ‘stupid people made up because they don’t want to believe in God.'” She tells her students that “if evolution were real, it would still be happening: Apes would still be turning into humans today.” She “repeatedly instructed students that evolution is not valid as a scientific theory and that God made the world 6000 years ago.” She skipped the chapter on evolution in the science textbook and she includes religious material on her science tests. On one examination, students were expected to fill in the blank in the sentence “ISN’T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” CC was penalized for not supplying the word “LORD.” The teacher similarly grants extra credit for writing “Isn’t it amazing what the Lord has made” on assignments and examinations.

Although CC’s parents complained of his teacher’s misbehavior, the superintendent was not responsive telling them “this is the Bible Belt” and suggesting that CC change his religion. The complaint cites the teachers behavior, the superintendent’s response, and a pattern of “official promotion and inculcation of religion generally, and Christianity, specifically” on the part of the district. A complaint was also filed with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

According to the Associated Press (2014 Jan 23). the school board issued a statement reading, “The Sabine Parish School Board has only recently been made aware of the lawsuit filed by the ACLU. A lawsuit only represents one side’s allegations, and the board is disappointed that the ACLU chose to file suit without even contacting it regarding the facts. The school system recognizes the rights of all students to exercise the religion of their choice and will defend the lawsuit vigorously.”

At this point we need to collectively catch our breath. Some Skeptical Analysis is in order.

First: “advocacy of creationism?” The issue is much deeper. This teacher is not merely confusing pseudo science with fact. She is not just unfamiliar with the time line of natural history. This woman—one Rita Roark—is preaching from the front of a public classroom.

The school superintendent goes it one better:

When Plaintiffs objected, Sabine Parish Superintendent, Sara Ebarb, told them that “this is the Bible belt.” She suggested that C.C. should “change” his faith or transfer to another district school 25 miles away where, in her words, “there are more Asians.” Ultimately, C.C.’s parents did transfer him to another school to protect him, but school officials at that school also unconstitutionally promote religion.

[Emphasis added]

How many different ways are there to spell official oppression?

T.P.I. — CRIM. 25.02

OFFICIAL OPPRESSION

Any public servant who commits the offense of official oppression is guilty of a crime.

For you to find the defendant guilty of this offense, the state must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of the following essential elements:

(1) that the defendant was a public servant acting under color of office or employment;

and

(2)(a) that the defendant intentionally subjected another to mistreatment or to arrest, detention, stop, frisk, halt, search, seizure, dispossession, assessment, or lien that the defendant knew was unlawful;

or

(b) that the defendant intentionally denied or impeded another in the exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power or immunity, when the defendant knew the conduct was unlawful.

You don’t need the ACLU for this. You only need to head down to the nearest police substation or to the state attorney general’s office and file a criminal complaint. Somebody will go to jail. Does Superintendent Sara Ebarb think she will ever be able to get another public service job with a criminal conviction on her record?

We also get to wondering whether people in Sabine Parish, Louisiana, ever read the newspapers. Or watch cable TV. Even Fox News:

Teaching “intelligent design” to high school biology students violates laws prohibiting the endorsement of religion in public schools, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. The ruling in Pennsylvania is a major defeat for proponents of the controversial alternative theory about the origins of life.

“The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID [intelligent design] is nothing less than the progeny of creationism,” wrote U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III.

He said the Dover Area School District‘s mandatory policy of reading a statement on intelligent design before teaching the theory of evolution to ninth-grade biology students violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

That was over eight years ago, and some people still have not caught onto the fact that teaching creationism in public schools is against the law. The sad facts of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case are that rogue public officials, William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell, goaded on by a sympathetic electorate, pushed for teaching Intelligent Design, and knowingly invited a law suit. Buckingham was notably oblivious to the consequences. When it became apparent the school district would face a lawsuit, he was characteristically defiant:

But in the event of a lawsuit, one persistent reporter asked, wouldn’t Dover have to pay its opponents’ legal bills if intelligent design went down in flames? “My response to that is, ‘What price freedom?’” Buckingham said. “Sometimes you have to take a stand.”

Humes, Edward (2009-10-13). Monkey Girl (p. 101). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

MonkeyGirl

Intelligent Design did go down in flames, and Buckingham (plus Bonsell) avoided all liability. Their school district and the taxpayers were stuck with the bill.

Citizens of Sabine Parish, you need to take notice. You may think teacher Rita Roark and Superintendent Sara Ebarb are only doing your bidding, but you need to realize they are in fact playing fast and loose with your money. Be prepared to pony up.

One thought on “Echoes of Dover

  1. Pingback: Tactical Retreat | Skeptical Analysis

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