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Plait: Sneaking creationism into classrooms

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It’s just a fact. Trying to teach a religion as truth in a public school is illegal.

So how does Responsive Education Solutions get away with it? They have what Kopplin calls a "secular veneer"; what looks like a non-religious coating on their writing, but even a cursory glance at the workbook shows it for what it truly is. And perhaps doing this through charter schools makes it somewhat easier than if it were in the public schools. Louisiana has been doing something similar, by using public funding to create vouchers to get kids out of public schools and into private schools where creationism is taught. This action is illegal, but is endorsed by Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal.

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Responsive Education’s CEO, Chuck Cook, has responded to Kopplin’s article in Slate, but as you’d expect what he says is just as bad as what’s written in the workbook. The Texas Freedom Network takes down his response, as does the Arkansas Times.

Oh, and it should be noted that on top of being unconstitutional and hugely draining on taxpayer money, Responsive Ed’s system had "less favorable" results than other charter schools as determined by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. Needless to say, Responsive Ed had problems with that, and also needless to say, CREDO showed that response to be somewhat lacking as well.

So what can be done about this? Well, for one, spread the word. The more people who know about this, the better. Also, I want to put in a plug for Kopplin. This outstanding young man has been fighting the forces of anti-science for years, and has done an astonishing job shining the light of reality on what they’re doing. His advocacy group, Second Giant Leap, want to increase funding for science education, putting it on par with the efforts of the Apollo program. I think this is a fine idea, as is his effort to stop Louisiana from teaching creationism in its schools as well.

Also, if you live in Texas, Arkansas, or Indiana, talk to your local representatives (and your state ones as well). They’re easy enough to find online, so send them a note (physical U.S. mail is even better) letting them know what you think about this. Be polite, but be firm. You can also get involved in your local school board, where a lot of the decisions to use various curricula are made.

In this country, we have freedom from religion just as much as we have freedom of religion. The latter depends on the former. No matter what people tell you, we are not a Christian nation, we are a secular one, and the country’s founding document, the Constitution, was specifically drafted to make sure it stays that way.

But that depends on us. Get vocal, and get active. Protect our Constitution, and protect the science education of an entire generation of Americans.

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Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of "Death from the Skies!"

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