The debate over the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) is heating up again in Baton Rouge. On Apr. 15, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, introduced a bill to repeal the LSEA, a 2008 law that ostensibly allows "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials" in Louisiana public school classrooms. In reality, the law opens the door for faith-based creationism and "intelligent design" to be taught alongside the theory of evolution in public schools.
Nowadays, 17-year-old Zack Kopplin, a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet School (and the son of New Orleans Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin), has become the public face of the fight (see Gambit's story, "Evolution vs. Creation," March 8, 2011). Kopplin plans a rally at the state Capitol Thursday (April 28). He's also been gathering signatures on a petition for state lawmakers.
Nothing new about petitions, of course, but what makes this one unique is the signatories: Kopplin has collected the endorsement of 41 Nobel Prize laureates in various scientific disciplines. "We strongly urge that the Louisiana Legislature repeal this misguided law," the letter reads. "Louisiana students deserve an education that will allow them to compete with their peers across the country and the globe."
Kopplin, who began his repeal movement as a senior class project, told Gambit last week, "I wish I had sort of known how this was going to go, because it's such a hard thing. I didn't expect it to be this big at all." He added that, should the repeal bill make it through the state Senate, Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, has pledged "to work on it" in the House. In addition to the Nobel laureates, Kopplin says, he'll soon announce the support of other prominent scientists. Meanwhile, the National Association of Biology Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Biology Educators have endorsed the repeal efforts.
In early April, Wired magazine ran an article outlining the "7 Science-Education Battlegrounds of 2011," naming other states considering their own versions of the LSEA based on the Louisiana legislation. — Kevin Allman