Board gives teachers 'academic freedom'
posted Wednesday, November 29th, 2006 @ 11:07 pm
The Ouachita Parish School Board unanimously approved a resolution to allow its teachers "academic freedom" in teaching all sides of controversial issues such as Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
Following the vote Wednesday at the school board meeting, several audience members of the packed board room applauded.
Retired Judge Darrell White of Baton Rouge, consultant with Louisiana Family Forum's Education Resource Council, commended the school board for setting a precedent he hopes other school systems will follow.
Ouachita Parish is the first school system in the state to adopt such a measure that will give its teachers academic freedom.
"This has been a long fight," White said, but added the fight to implement quality science education guidelines in all schools has just begun.
"Where topics are taught that may generate controversy, such as biological evolution, the curriculum should help students understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society," White said.
Louisiana Family Forum's goal is to present "time honored principles in centers of influence (such as schools) on issues affecting the family."
White said Louisiana Family Forum officials are excited that Ouachita Parish teachers now know that it's safe to teach all sides of controversial issues.
In 2002, White reviewed science textbooks that the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved. He said those were flawed textbooks that numerous state lawmakers, public officials, college professors and high school teachers opposed.
He said documented scientific errors, misleading statements and "glaring omissions" were noted in all of the textbooks BESE approved.
"They really give a one-sided story," White said. "They don't teach the weaknesses of Darwinism, and the weaknesses of evolution need to be taught right along with the strengths." BESE officials said those who opposed the textbooks should take their concerns to the individual school boards that use the books.
"This is just a follow up today to what started back in 2002," White said.
Assistant superintendent Dr. Frank Hoffman said the issue is not about evolution or religion, but rather giving school teachers the freedom to teach all facets of a subject.
Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber said the school system polled local teachers and 100 percent indicated they don't feel they have the freedom to teach controversial issues.
"They are just looking for our support," Webber said.
Danny Pennington, a biology teacher at West Monroe High School, addressed the school board during Tuesday's meeting.
He helped poll local teachers and agrees that most of them are scared to teach these controversial issues for fear of backlash from the public.
"Darwin has three chapters where he questions his own theory," Pennington said. "Now, if Darwin questioned it, why can't we?"
"All we want to do as teachers is be able to teach both sides and strive for a fair result," Pennington said.