My Open Letter to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Dear Members of the Louisiana BESE Board,

My name is Zack Kopplin, and I am a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School. I testified in favor of adopting life science textbooks that teach proper science at the Textbook/Media/Library Advisory Council meeting. I am asking you to please make sure that Louisiana adopts textbooks that teach science that will prepare us, the students of Louisiana, for success in the global economy.

By proper science, I mean textbooks that teach the theory of evolution. Please vote to accept the textbooks that the Textbook Advisory Council recommended. Please accept them without any delays, revisions, disclaimers, or supplementary materials.

Evolution is one of the strongest scientific theories, it is comparable to the theory of gravity.

You will likely be asked to reject these textbooks because they do not allow “alternatives” to evolution or teach its “flaws.” You will also hear claims that there is a large controversy among scientists over the theory of evolution.

Please understand that there are not “flaws” in the theory of evolution. The “flaws” that you will be asked to consider are simply misunderstandings about the nature of science and observation, what a scientific theory is, and how the scientific method works. This was all thoroughly addressed at the November 12 meeting, and the council’s 8-4 vote in favor of adopting the already approved textbooks confirms it.

This brings me to the fundamental reason people will ask for the “flaws” of evolution to be taught. “Teaching the flaws” of evolution is creationist code language designed to help insert creationism or its offshoot intelligent design into the public school science classroom. These are the “alternatives” that you may be asked to insert.  They are unscientific and unconstitutional and should not be placed in a public school science classroom.

Lastly, you will likely be told that there is a controversy among scientists about evolution. That is absolutely not true. You will probably be given a list titled “The Scientific Dissent from Darwin.” This list is relatively small and contains fewer scientists than the National Center of Science Education’s tongue-in-cheek parody of it, Project Steve. Project Steve is a list of scientists with the first name Steve or a variation of it who recognize “evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences” and are in support of teaching evolution in public schools. Not only does this list outnumber the “Dissent from Darwin” list, but it also contains a much larger number of eminent scientists and a much larger number of biologists. (http://ncse.com/taking-action/list-steves).

This parody notwithstanding, I also am attaching a letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science on behalf of 10 Million Scientists that issues a strong statement of support for the teaching evolution. There is no controversy among scientists over the theory of evolution.

I hope that the BESE Board will vote on Dec. 7 to adopt textbooks that teach proper science. I have attached supplementary materials at the bottom of this letter and I hope that each of you will take the time to review the testimony from the Textbook Advisory Council’s meeting. It includes wonderful arguments in support of teaching proper science in public school science classes from Louisiana’s students, teachers, and scientists.

This the testimony I gave at the Nov. 12 council meeting.

Here is a link to the National Academy of Science’s book Science, Evolution, and Creationism. I plan to bring copies for each BESE member to the Dec. 7 meeting.

I am also attaching a link to PBS’ NOVA: Judgement Day, a program that provides additional context on this issue and provides clear arguments for why evolution belongs in science classrooms and creationism does not.

Thank you for your time. Once again, I must ask you, please adopt textbooks that will teach the Louisiana’s high school students proper science and prepare us for the global economy.

Best,
Zack Kopplin

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3 Responses to My Open Letter to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

  1. Dez Crawford says:

    Zach, heard you on the Jim Engster show this morning. I plan to write to protest creationism; I also wish you well in the ongoing battle to keep the fundamentalist Christian equivalent of the Taliban out of our public schools.

    Here’s a good argument, when someone like the caller this morning throws out “but the politicians are elected by the people so they must do what the majority wants.” The simplest rebuttal to this is that if we drafted textbooks in every subject based on what the majority of voters believe, Ukraine would not appear on world maps, Grover Cleveland would disappear from history books, and the formula for slope would disappear from math textbooks, because most Americans cannot find Ukraine on a map, do not know the formula for slope, and cannot identify Grover Cleveland.
    Good luck in your – OUR – fight.

  2. Kelly says:

    You may have done your research on scientific theories of evolution, however have not done any extensive research on some of the other theories. We live in America, our biggest accomplishment is our freedom, which we obviously continue to fight for. It is a choice of what we do or don’t believe in, and the “Theory of Evolution” should not be pushed as the only possible option, nor should religion etc.. All theories that show facts that lead to a possible way of evolution should be presented in textbooks. This country is going to be destroyed from within, if things like this are takin away from our current and next generations. Please do all your research before presenting such an argument and not having all the facts.

    • Zack Kopplin says:

      This is possibly the most insulting thing I been told. I have done research on this issue extensively, and with your comment you have proven that you have not.

      To insinuate that evolution is “only a theory” shows how little you understand about the nature of science, what a theory is, and evolution. I’m going to quote my last testimony about what a theory is.

      “In everyday use, the word theory is sometimes used to describe an unproven conjecture–like the “theory that Carl Weiss wasn’t Huey Long’s murderer.” That is open to debate.

      But in science, a theory is very different. Major theories like the theory of gravity or the theory of evolution undergird entire branches of science and have been thoroughly tested and retested and shown to have predictive ability to explain natural phenomena. They are hardly unproven conjectures–they are the basic building blocks of modern physics and biology respectively–and they helped send men to the moon and develop medicines to effectively fight thousands of diseases.”

      It is not just the “Theory of Evolution.” It is an extremely fundamental part of a science education, and is the major unifying principle of biology. The students of Louisiana need to learn the theory of evolution which will prepare us for success in the global economy, rather than pseudoscientific explanations which will not.

      You said I have not done research on any theories. I would like you to name any alternative theories to evolution, which are backed by the scientific evidence. Please don’t tell me intelligent design or creationism. They are not backed by the evidence. There have been no scientific discoveries or advances based on intelligent design, and you can’t even create an experiment based on intelligent design. They are not correct or accurate science. Evolution is correct science.

      I assume you meant either of those. Let me run by you some of the other alternate belief systems we DO NOT teach in schools. We don’t teach alchemy in chemistry, astrology in astronomy, we don’t teach the flat Earth theory or the geocentric theory either. The reason we don’t teach them is because they are not backed up by the evidence and do not provide a correct explanation of the natural world. Creationism or its offshoot intelligent design does not either, and should not be taught in a public school science class.

      You also misrepresent me and misunderstand our freedoms. You have the right to believe whatever belief system you would like, you can even teach it at a church, or at home, or at a private school. There is a difference in believing, and forcing your beliefs into public school science classes. In public school science classes, you teach science which is naturalistic, expandable, observable, testable, repeatable, and falsifiable. Evolution meets these requirements, nothing else does. Evolution is what is taught in the science class because it is correct and accurate science backed by evidence. It does not threaten your freedoms, because you have the right to believe whatever you want, but schools are meant to teach science that will prepare us for the global economy. Correct science is taught in schools around the country and the world, not pseudoscientific theories like intelligent design. Wasting our time with unscientific alternatives harms our chances of success in the global economy.

      Evolution should be presented correctly without any alternatives that are meant to undermine it. To assert that accurately teaching evolution is destroying the country is the equivalent to saying that accurately teaching calculus or world history is destroying the country.

      Please refrain from attacking me in the future, especially on the basis of knowing my facts until you have done the research yourself.

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