The Times-Picayune reports that most schools are run by the state and that the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) only has a “direct say-so on the curriculum in about half a dozen schools.” But those in favor of science over superstition can take heart from the fact that in those six schools, at least, science will be taught rather than religion.
None of those schools were teaching creationism, but outgoing president Thomas Robichaux, who is both liberal and gay, has ensured that they won’t be doing so any time soon by making policy changes that “specifically bar district teachers from injecting ‘any aspect of religious faith’ into science courses.”
“No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach any aspect of religious faith as science or in a science class. No teacher of any discipline of science shall teach creationism or intelligent design in classes designated as science classes.”
Out specifically is anything out of Texas: “The new language even bans the use of textbooks that have been adjusted ‘in accordance with the state of Texas revisionist guidelines,’ which highlight the role of Christianity in the country’s history.”
California was the first to respond to Texas revisionism, banning this crap back in 2010. Robichaux also took a strong anti-bullying stance. OPSB’s definition is hardly narrow, as bullying is defined as,
“any intimidating, threatening, or abusive gesture or written, verbal, electronic transmission or communication or physical act by a student directed at another student occurring on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored event that a reasonable person under the circumstances would perceive as being motivated by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical characteristic, political persuasion, mental disability, or physical disability, as well as attire or association with others identified by such categories.”
Thanks to Robichaux, ”Any teacher, administrator, or other school personnel who personally observes, or who has or receives notice that a student has or may have been the victim of bullying, intimidation, threatening behavior, harassment, or hazing at school or any school activity shall be required to immediately take such action as necessary and appropriate to stop the incident in question, if it is ongoing, and report the alleged acts to an appropriate school district official.”
The measure can be read here (pdf).
Louisiana has not been the most forward-looking state in the Union, where education is concerned. The preference there seems to be religious indoctrination and the teaching of pseudo-Christian dogma.
None of this is surprising: Republicans control both chambers of legislature. Governor Jindal plans to push charter schools again in 2013 and I’ve written previously about how Louisiana is banishing its students in that state to the Bronze Age.
It would be comforting to think that events in New Orleans might spread outward from these six schools but in reality, the Religious Right is not about to stop pushing to turn our public schools into churches. Their reaction to the catastrophic events in Connecticut last week testify to their continuing plans in that regard.
Our children, when they are not being murdered by an angry God, are destined, if the Religious Right has its way, to be taught that humans and dinosaurs co-existed and that the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood. Science has no future in any foreseeable Republican administration.
So while we must applaud Robichaux’s efforts, we must also take them with a note of caution, like a slender ray of sunshine in an otherwise stormy sky.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.