Thursday, March 19, 2009

Science Conference to Address Controversy

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 5:11 PM

While the city recently lost one science convention due to the Louisiana Science Education Act, the National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) 57th National Conference on Science Education starts tomorrow at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The Louisiana Science Teachers Association and the NSTA have staunchly opposed the science education act, but does not support a boycott of New Orleans because of the legislation.

     “We’ve always said we’re not going to hide from these things,” says Kate Meyer, a spokesperson for NSTA. “We don’t agree with the legislation, but we’re here to promote good science, and work with the teachers here.”

     With 60,000 members worldwide, NSTA is the largest science teacher organization in the world. Meyers says the organization has written numerous letters in opposition to the so-called “academic freedom” bills, which have been introduced in numerous state legislatures across the country. Louisiana is the only state to have passed a version of the legislation, which allows for science teachers to use supplemental materials to teach scientific theories like evolution. The supplemental materials do not require the approval of the Louisiana Department of Education, and can be approved by local school boards.

     Like other large science organizations such as American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, NSTA considers the theory of evolution, as described by Meyers, “universally accepted by the science community.”

     “That’s what we believe should be taught in the schools,” Meyers adds.

     The conference will address the issue in one of its sessions, “Teaching Controversial Topics in the Classroom: Dissecting the Louisiana Science Education Act.” One of the session’s speakers is Barbara Forrest, an outspoken critic of the science education act and the author of “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design.” 

     More than 10,000 people are expected to attend the conference, which will be kicked off with opening remarks by Louisiana first lady, Supriya Jindal, whose husband, Gov. Jindal, signed the science education act into law. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will also address the convention.

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