Weird Science: Taxpayer-funded religious schools in Louisiana teach monstrously bad biology
Nessie? Is that you?
I sometimes wonder if Louisiana is on some sort of crusade to be declared the silliest state in America.
We’ve written before on this blog about Louisiana’s new voucher program that will direct taxpayer funds to private religious schools of dubious worth, including one school that uses DVDs to educate children and has great plans to expand “on faith.”
Now comes word that another school taking part in the program, Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, uses a “science” book that contains some unusual ideas – one of them the assertion that dinosaurs might still be roaming our planet.
Why would a fundamentalist school want kids to think dinosaurs might still be alive? They apparently believe this would somehow cast doubt on evolution, a well-established principle that fundamentalists have been at war with since at least 1925.
The book in question, Biology 1099 published by Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) in Madison, Tenn., contains the following passage: “Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”
Fewer than 40 children attend Eternity Christian Academy. Thanks to Gov. Bobby Jindal and compliant Louisiana legislators, 135 students may be enrolled there this fall. Many religious schools in the state have ambitious plans to expand in the wake of the taxpayer-funded windfall.
That number may sound small, but the fact is we have no way of knowing how many other tax-supported academies in Louisiana use ACE’s materials. The publisher is popular among Christian fundamentalist educators and home-schoolers. This fall, lots of other Louisiana youngsters might be learning that the Loch Ness Monster debunks evolution.
It’s easy to poke fun at something like this, and I could crack jokes about the school taking a field trip to Roswell, N.M., to check out the UFO crash site or perhaps hosting a seminar on how Bigfoot fits into all of this. But at the end of the day, it’s not really very funny for the children funneled into these schools who are getting a substandard education. My guess is that not many of them are going to excel in science and explore that as a career at a top-flight university.
Nor is it funny for Louisiana taxpayers who are stuck picking up the tab for this nonsense and who must stand by and watch as their state’s reputation sinks lower and lower.
Louisiana’s public school teachers also don’t find it amusing. My oldest sister teaches in a public school there and has recounted to me the frustration she and her colleagues feel over the lack of support they receive from local politicians and state legislators. Watching scarce tax funds siphoned into schools like Eternity Christian Academy only adds to their dismay.
Groups that support public education in Louisiana have filed a lawsuit challenging the voucher program. They assert that lawmakers are using a fund reserved for public education to pay for vouchers in violation of the Louisiana Constitution.
Here’s hoping they are successful.
There’s probably no monster living in Loch Ness, but there’s certainly a different type of monster lurking in the swamps of Louisiana. It’s a monster called foolishness, and forcing residents to pay for its upkeep is unconscionable.