Thirty years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled against Louisiana requiring teaching of both evolution and creationism in public schools. But debate over the role of the two theories in education continues.
Last week, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to update science standards for the state's public schools. The current standards, which haven't been updated in twenty years, are some of the oldest in the nation.
State Superintendent John White cautioned these new standards must still reflect state law.
“You are today voting specifically on science standards, but you are also directed by the law to not prohibit teachers from introducing supplemental materials to teach supplemental theories,” he said.
Of concern is the Louisiana Science Education Act, passed in 2008.
Louisiana Family Forum President Gene Mills backed the law then and now.
“The Science Education Act has served teachers, or attempted to, and students by allowing both free and open discussions about controversial topics," said Mills, "including the origins of the universe, the origins of human life, global climate change and human cloning.”
State Representative Beryl Amedee (R-Houma) worries the standards don’t provide enough room for alternative theories, like intelligent design or creationism.
“I really see only evolutionary theory throughout. Why would you not want students to analyze and recognize alternative models?” she asked the Board.
K. Renae Pullen is a science curriculum specialists in Caddo Parish. She supports the new standards.
“Science is not a system of beliefs," she explained, "it’s a way of knowing and understanding our natural world around us.”
The new standards will be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year.