appel2008

Dear Chairman Appel,

I am writing to respectfully ask you to support the passage of Senate Bill 26, which would repeal the controversial and unconstitutional Louisiana Science Education Act. I am a proud, lifelong citizen of Louisiana and a graduate of the Louisiana public education system. Like you, I believe in the promise and the potential of our Great State.

During the last eight years, Louisiana has defined the word “resiliency,” both to our country and to the rest of the world. However, if Louisiana is to truly emerge as an enduring example of innovation and ingenuity, we must ensure the strength and durability of not only our physical infrastructure– our levees, roads, bridges, sewage systems, and electrical grids– but of our human infrastructure as well.

As you know, objective, non-partisan studies continually reveal that investments in education and science yield significantly higher rates of return than anything else. Last year, you fought to ensure Louisiana develops strategies to attract students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), an effort for which I earnestly commend you. You said then, “If we’re going to fit into the 21st century, we need more people graduating in these fields.”

I wholeheartedly agree.

As you rightfully pointed out, if we are to be successful in fostering and cultivating a 21st century workforce, then we must adequately provide our students, early on, with the resources they require to pursue careers in the sciences. “Kids are formulating their own ideas early on,” you said. “We have to focus on high schools too.”

Without question, the Louisiana Science Education Act severely undermines your noble efforts to increase the competitiveness and the viability of Louisiana’s 21st century workforce. I understand that you have already voted twice to oppose the law’s repeal, and with all due respect, Mr. Chairman, I firmly believe that you and many of your colleagues have been purposely deceived about the nature and intention of the Louisiana Science Education Act.

Last year, during the Senate Education Committee hearing on the repeal bill, you questioned whether anyone had actually formally complained about the law. It was a fair and legitimate question, but unfortunately, I don’t think it was properly answered.

Next week, when your committee considers SB 26, I sincerely hope you will also consider the following:

  1. The Louisiana Science Education Act is publicly opposed by more Nobel Prize laureates than any other single law in the entire country and more than any single law in Louisiana history. These 78 laureates are not motivated by any political considerations. Unlike those who have testified in support of the LSEA, none of these laureates are registered lobbyists; none of them have ever been compensated, in any way, for their endorsements. They are among the world’s most accomplished and most preeminent scientists, scholars, and innovators, and suffice it to say, their opposition to the LSEA is not capricious; it’s principled.
  2. The repeal efforts have been led by Louisiana public school students, Louisiana public school graduates, and Louisiana parents, teachers, and professors. With all due respect, your question, last year, regarding “complaints” against the LSEA was somewhat confounding, considering that you were speaking in front of dozens of students, parents, and teachers all there to complain, formally, to the Louisiana Senate Education Committee. Indeed, all told, more than 100,000 people, including thousands of Louisiana citizens, have signed petitions urging for the repeal of the law.
  3. Therefore, I can only assume your question about “complaints” against the LSEA referred, instead, to whether or not any litigation had been filed. I hope you will appreciate that those of us advocating for the law’s repeal earnestly seek to avoid litigation. That said, I am supremely confident that the law would be immediately struck down as facially unconstitutional and in direct violation of the Establishment Clause, and my opinion is shared by an overwhelming consensus of legal experts and nationally-renowned Constitutional law professors. A legal challenge, however, should be the last resort. Again, the repeal effort is being spearheaded by Louisiana citizens, and the law we seek to repeal was crafted, in large part, by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based creationist “think tank.” The Discovery Institute may be interested in yet another losing “show trial,” but we believe that leaders like you– elected officials who understand the value of science education and the imminent challenges facing Louisiana– are cognizant of the damage the LSEA has already inflicted on the reputation and credibility of our public education system.

Mr. Chairman, considering your strong, unequivocal support for STEM, I believe that you have the unique opportunity and ability to repeal a law that has made Louisiana the subject of national and international ridicule. To be sure, I understand that, to some, the LSEA may seem like “much ado about nothing,” an inconsequential law that merely reinforces “critical thinking” in the classroom. I’d submit to you this: The sustained national and international criticism that Louisiana has received, particularly among the scientific community, will not subside until the law is repealed. Unless and until the LSEA is repealed, Louisiana will continue to be considered a toxic environment for scientists and academics; we will continue to bleed away jobs in the knowledge-based economy. The longer the LSEA remains on the books, even if the law is never fully utilized, the more difficult it becomes for Louisiana to cultivate and retain a dynamic, 21st century workforce.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, laws are often intended to merely serve symbolic functions. Occasionally, legislatures pass laws that may never be fully enforced but that, nonetheless, still effectively deter or encourage certain behavior or policy aspirations. During your upcoming committee hearing, I imagine you will hear from defenders of the LSEA that it has not “harmed” anyone, that those who oppose it are somehow imagining things, that it’s really about providing students with the most robust education possible, that it encourages “critical thinking.” Mr. Chairman, I understand it’s not polite to use this word in politics, but these are all demonstrable lies. If you need any evidence of the harm the LSEA has already caused Louisiana (and I’m not trying to sound flippant), all you need to do is conduct a Google search.

The LSEA purposely relies on semantic subterfuge and deception. Its proponents disingenuously argue that it’s about ensuring “critical thinking.” Mr. Chairman, respectfully, it is manifestly clear that the purpose and intent of the LSEA is to allow evangelical New Earth Creationists the opportunity to promote their own religious beliefs as legitimate science in public school classrooms. It’s not exactly a secret, either. During the last two Senate Education Committee meetings concerning previous repeal bills, those who supported the LSEA attempted to turn the hearings into an embarrassing kangaroo court. As the record reflects, their testimony had nothing to do with “critical thinking.” Instead, the proponents of the LSEA made it abundantly obvious they were more concerned with teaching their religious beliefs as science than in teaching the scientific method. Video clips from those meetings have garnered hundreds of thousands of views online– not because the LSEA’s defenders offered insightful, cogent analysis, but because people were stunned and exasperated by the breathtaking ignorance on full display. It may seem funny or amusing to a national audience, but to those of us who believe in Louisiana, the kabuki theater is embarrassing. The LSEA’s defenders suggest the law has nothing to do with putting science or evolution “on trial,” but during the last two years, that’s exactly what they have attempted to do in your committee. This year, for the sake of our state’s reputation and all of us who have earned a degree in Louisiana public schools, I hope that you and the members of your committee will end this charade, once and for all, and stand up for science.

I sincerely appreciate your leadership on STEM, and I thank you for your service to the people of Louisiana.

Please forgive my long-windedness. I am, obviously, very passionate about this issue. Once again, I urge you to support SB 26.

Respectfully,

Lamar White, Jr.

2 thoughts

  1. Great letter. I am still trying to get my hands around where all this is coming from? The early leaders of the modern Louisiana Republican Party did not presage these folks. Dave Treen would not recognize some of these crazy ideas. It is like Jim Jones and David Koresh had a weekend legislative seminar.

  2. Why are you blaming Republicans Thad? LSEA was sponsored by a Democrat in 2008. It passed the legislature by near unanimous vote of all elected Democrats.

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