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Public records lawsuit on teaching creationism in Louisiana

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Remember Zack Kopplin, the high school student who was raising cain against Louisiana’s legislation that allows teachers academic freedom in teaching evolution as long as they don’t promote religion or creationism? The Darwinist darling is now at Rice U and has now filed a public records lawsuit against Superintendent of Education John White:

Zack Kopplin, who attends Rice University, says White and the Department of Education have refused to provide documents he’s sought about the state’s voucher program and a law that allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials in their classrooms.

Kopplin has criticized both the voucher program and the Louisiana Science Education Act as fostering the teaching of creationism to Louisiana students. – WBRZ.com

Most likely, he isn’t acting alone. It’s a clever move on the part of Darwin’s followers, because school systems threatened by charters and vouchers with the need to raise their standards may pile on, hoping to increase the costs and reduce the standards of independent schools down to their level. A lot of tax funds and union jobs are likely at stake.

In general, Louisiana’s science grades are actually fairly good just now. But the grades could be brought down by pressure groups forcing government to waste education funds on litigation over policies that most see as a reasonable compromise.

Has anyone come forward publicly with evidence that religion or creationism is being taught in Louisiana schools? We’d like to hear about it.

Hat tip: Greg Laden at ScienceBlogs

News, I think you're still a little confused about what this case is about. It is not about whether anyone is teaching creationism in science classes. The documents they've requested won't contain any "smoking gun" on that point. It's an open-government case, about access to documents the government is trying to keep secret. People go digging in such documents, even when they don't expect to find a smoking gun, all the time. I've done it myself, and helped clients do it. Here, they're looking for a very broad range of correspondence regarding the passage and policy-level implementation of the act in question. That's not the sort of thing that people do when they think there's a smoking gun to find. If they think there's a smoking gun, they go straight for it. Kopplin is casting a much broader net, looking for a lot of documents in very broad categories like "all correspondence about X." They're looking to see what they can see about the issue generally. Later, if they do find something interesting, they'll probably drill down on it. The lawsuit is all about trying to pierce the objections the government threw up to block their investigation. The administration seems to be applying a very aggressive interpretation of a "deliberative process" privilege to block FOIA-style requests. They aren't doing it just to Kopplin, Jindal has been doing it for a while. It's been litigated several times recently, with generally negative results for the Jindal administration. I can't imagine why you say, "No one cares whether he gets the gov info or not." Obviously he cares. I care. Most open-government advocates care, or should care--these documents are created with our tax dollars and should be released unless there's a very good reason not to do so. The administration says that the "deliberative process" privilege is a good enough reason, and lots of civil libertarians disagree. So it goes to the courts to decide the matter. People care about that sort of thing. So your question is sort of a non-sequitor--it just doesn't apply to this lawsuit. I can try to answer, it though. "[W]hy have no public complaints surfaced if his concerns are justified?" If by "his concerns" you mean whether people are teaching creationism in public schools, there are several possibilities. Maybe no one is teaching creationism. Maybe they're right on the edge and it hasn't provoked a complaint yet. Maybe they're teaching it in a deeply religious parish or voucher-funded religious school and no one wants to object. Maybe one student wants to object but her parents don't want to get involved. Maybe the parents want to get involved but are afraid of retaliation. It's all speculation, but there are LOTS of possible reasons why there wouldn't be complaints even if someone was teaching creationism in public schools (or with public money). That's all irrelevant, since for the purposes of this lawsuit that's NOT his concern. His concern here is that his requests for documents that should be public have allegedly been ignored or blocked. And when we consider that issue, there have been lots of public complaints, and even prior lawsuits on this subject. Now it's his turn to complain publicly. Pro Hac Vice
Pro Hac Vice, he would not bother if he didn't expect to find a smoking gun. Dunno. He's got the right and fine. My question - which makes a LOT of sense - is, if there IS a smoking gun, why does't anyone smell the smoke? No one cares whether he gets the gov info or not, but his seeking it is a story because there is no smell from the smoke. There should be. News
News, I'm asking you to believe that a lawsuit is a request for a court to do something specific. This suit asks the court to compel the state of Louisiana to produce documents. Kopplin's press release explains exactly what they're looking for, and why: "Zack Kopplin filed suit against Louisiana Superintendent John White and the Department of Education in order to compel White to release a series of public records concerning the school voucher program, teacher evaluation methodology, the Louisiana Science Education Act, the influence of lobbyists on policymaking, and policies related to the retention and destruction of public records. The suit is designed—at long last—to ferret out what the process was leading to Jindal’s sweeping education changes—including whether there was a lack of record making or so-called 'off campus' records retention, which is a particularly non-transparent practice of some government officials to hire consultants or third party firms to develop and store policy in order to shield policy making from the public." As far as I can tell, having glanced over the complaint, neither the documents being requested nor anything in the lawsuit would tell anyone what's going on inside a classroom. Nor do I think this is even a roundabout way of getting to whether anyone is currently teaching creationism in LA schools. Kopplin is probably opposed to a state standard that permits creationism to be taught whether or not teachers are choosing to take advantage of it. (That's my supposition, but I think it's reasonable.) If so, it makes sense for him to request these documents, which apparently relate to how that law was passed. The question you're interested doesn't make much sense. Kopplin seems to be looking for documents roughly related to how the law was passed and implemented. No public complaints have surfaced, presumably, because the parts of the public who would care have been denied access to such documents. Pro Hac Vice
Pro hac vice, are you really asking us to believe that this is not about "whether anyone is currently teaching religion or creationism in LA public schools."? That is most unlikely, given Zack Kopplin's history. And, of course he has the right to find out. The question News is interested in is, why have no public complaints surfaced if his concerns are justified. News
Kairosfocus, how do you discriminate between a legitimate resort to the courts and "[i]ntimidation and manipulation by litigation"? What makes this the latter rather than the former? News, you might want to read an article that explains what this lawsuit is about. As far as I can tell, it's not about whether anyone is currently teaching religion or creationism in LA public schools. Kopplin is apparently seeking policy-level documents that the state allegedly withheld improperly. A quick google suggests that the LA administration has been fairly aggressive in resisting open-records access, and lost (or settled for cash) a couple of similar cases recently. Pro Hac Vice
kairofocus, some of us are still waiting for evidence that anyone IS teaching religion or creationism in publicly funded science classes in Louisiana. A public records request should not be necessary because anyone could come forward with such a claim to the media, as it is illegal to teach religion or creationism and plenty of people would be happy to out anyone who did so. And witnesses should be comparatively easy to find in a public setting. Yet we never hear of it. That suggests that if it is a problem at all, it is a fairly minor one. News
An awful lot of the top Oxbridge colleges might have to change their name. (not) The currently three top-ranked colleges of Cambridge, currently the top-ranked university in the world, are named Trinity, Emmanuel, Corpus Christi. A new promissory note in the offing? One day my son, those colleges will be renamed, Harris, Dawkins and Coyne. (not) Axel
If Creationism was good enough for the schools that theology graduate, Charles Darwin, attended, it should certainly be good enough for Master Kopplin to find it incumbent upon himself to show a great deal more respect to the Creationism of Judaeo-Christianity, than the perverse atheistic fodder normally purveyed to the country's generally very indifferent public schools. Are we to believe that what was good enough for the scientists cited at the link, below, isn't good enough for Master Kopplin and the educational goals he wishes for his peers? http://godevidence.com/2010/08/quotes-about-god/ Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): "From the perspective of the latest physical theories, Christianity is not a mere religion, but an experimentally testable science." I wonder when the pagans will try to have the chapels at the top private schools and universities in the West closed down? They've got some hopes. Axel
Intimidation and manipulation by litigation. kairosfocus

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