Zack Kopplin Uncovers Creationism Being Taught in Louisiana

When Zack Copplin testified before a Louisiana legislative committee against the passage of the Louisiana Science Education Act, he told them that the bill was a back door to teaching creationism (duh). But since it hadn’t been passed yet, he couldn’t prove it was happening. Now he can.

The reason for this evasiveness from these two school boards is that this is a list of teachers who signed their names to a letter that is for all intents and purposes an admission of teaching creationism.

Other emails from Ouachita Parish provided even more evidence that creationism was being taught in Louisiana schools. Two West Monroe High School science teachers, Kyle Hill and Jessica Wyatt, discussed questions for their students to promote higher-order thinking skills. Promoting critical thinking is one of the main political arguments for the Louisiana Science Education Act, and these teachers interpreted it to mean—as the designers of the act intended—an invitation to teach creationism. One question they came up with was: “Name an evolutionary change that would support both the big bang theory and creationism?” The answer: “snake leg nubbs.”

Danny Pennington, a creationist principal at Good Hope Middle School in Ouachita, used to be a biology teacher at West Monroe High School, and he created a set of creationist curricula and DVDs meant for the public school classroom. While employed by the public school system, he filmed himself exploiting the Louisiana Science Education Act to attack evolution. Another Louisiana creationist, Charles Voss, who publishes his own creationist supplemental materials, emailed Pennington: “The DVD you made in the classroom is needed to show what a teacher can do in a single period,” he said. “You literally destroyed evolution in one 40 minute period.”

I have requested a copy of Pennington’s videos, but so far they have not been provided to me. I did obtain a copy of his written curriculum, which uses traditional creationist rhetoric such as: “Students and teachers should understand that many past conclusions based on fossil evidence were simply wrong.” Pennington states that one biology textbook was incorrect in teaching that whales had a common ancestor that lived on land. (Whales actually did have a common ancestor that lived on land.)

Despite the protections of the Louisiana Science Education Act, it’s still possible that school systems or individual teachers could get into trouble for lessons that are too explicitly religious. In his guidelines for teachers using his curriculum, Pennington advises teachers to “link teaching of evolution to existing school district policies about teaching controversial issues” in order to stay out of legal trouble.

Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education told me, “Getting teachers to use attacks on evolution as a proxy for advocating creationism has a long history, especially in Louisiana.” He said, “It’s clear that that’s what teachers in Ouachita Parish are doing, and what Darrell White is encouraging in other districts.”

Look, everyone knew what was going on when they passed that law. It was an attempt to smuggle in creationism without calling it that, by disguising the same old creationist arguments as “scientific evidence against evolution.” No one should be at all surprised that it’s happening. Not coincidentally, it was Louisiana that got creationism banned in public schools in 1987. I think they’re ready for another legal smackdown.

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  • Synfandel

    One question they came up with was: “Name an evolutionary change that would support both the big bang theory and creationism?” The answer: “snake leg nubbs.”

    So many questions…

    1. What’s a “nubb”?

    2. What do “nubbs” have to do with snake legs?

    3. In what way do they support the big bang theory?

    4. In what way do they support creationism?

  • Modusoperandi

    …snake leg nubbs.

    Dibs on blues singer name!

  • eric

    Sadly, I don’t think it’ll work. Okay so Zach’s ripped away their flimsy excuse for supporting it as constitutional…they’re still going to support it.

  • Childermass

    “Zack Kopplin Uncovers Creationism Being Taught in Oklahoma”

    While it would not surprise me that Oklahoma is far worse than Louisiana on this particular topic, the term “Oklahoma” does not appear even once in the article.

  • Big Boppa
  • daved

    Re: Headline. Should be Louisiana, not Oklahoma. (Yeah, I know, Ed won’t change it, but it *is* confusing.)

  • John Pieret

    In what way do they support creationism?

    Genesis 3:14

    So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

    “Cursed are you above all livestock

    and all wild animals!

    You will crawl on your belly

    and you will eat dust

    all the days of your life.

    It shows that the serpents originally had legs that God took away because of its deception of Eve.

  • 4ozofreason

    While I hold absolutely no illusions that creationism is not being taught here in Oklahoma, or that Kopplin would not easily find evidence of same, this article is about Louisiana.

  • raven

    PDF]Louisiana Education Facts – Council for A Better Louisiana

    www. cabl .org/pdfs/2013_LA_Report_Card_Major_Educ._Indicators.pdf

    of intense focus for Louisiana which has embarked … National Ranking on Achievement: #48. -Education … secondary education and training – many requiring …

    1. Louisiana ranks 48th in school education results.

    2. It’s likely to get much worse under Jindal. He has done a lot to destroy education in Louisiana.

    3. Don’t those people get tired of being poor and ignorant?

  • slc1

    Re raven @ #9

    The saddest part of all of this is that Jindal has a degree in science. He majored in biology at Brown (although as Ken Miller is quick to point out, he never had Jindal in one of his classes).

  • grumpyoldfart

    That’s good. We need more fruit pickers and factory hands.

  • whheydt

    Re: raven @ #9…

    How would they know that they are “poor and ignorant”? By what means would they be able to compare themselves to people in other states after being “educated” in Louisiana?

  • Jared Guthrie

    I’m from LA. Luckily my kids are in a school district where this isn’t being pushed and it’s one of the best districts in the states. Also, the title should read “Louisiana” not “Oklahoma”. There’s not such thing as parishes anywhere in the US except for Louisiana.

  • pixiedust

    If the Louisiana law gets overturned, God will smite Oklahoma with tornados. Ed is way ahead of you guys.

  • pixiedust

    Hey, I didn’t capitalize “god” in 14! Damn autoincorrect.

  • Lithified Detritus

    Modusoperandi @ 2

    And what do you plan to do with yet another internet?

  • Childermass

    “If the Louisiana law gets overturned, God will smite Oklahoma with tornados. Ed is way ahead of you guys.”

    God will smite Moore with tornadoes no matter what.

  • dingojack

    ‘Kopplin’ or ‘Copplin’?


  • Ronald Taylor

    I’m not sure if many people appreciate the extent to which back door informal creationism is already taught whenever evolution comes up in K-12 classrooms. I live in Indiana and while I remember the specifics being in the textbooks (common descent with modification, etc), they were seldom dwelled upon and the teacher almost always took a moment to issue a very creationist disclaimer. In eighth grade it was something along the lines of “we can’t observe the past so this is all subjective speculation.” In honors biology in high school it was “microevolution doesn’t prove macroevolution.” I clearly remember our bio teacher saying, with regards to adaptations, “Does that mean reptiles turned into birds? No.” This was about ten years ago in a part of Indiana (the top northwest corner near Chicago) that isn’t especially conservative. I think this sort of thing is probably far more common than some realize.

  • James Stuby

    Repeal of the law failed