SADOW: Lame-Duck Grandstanding On The Orleans Parish School Board

One jilted politician went out with a flourish, reminding those who wish to rebuild Louisiana’s elementary and secondary education that the disease that has kept it back can be difficult to eradicate, and its effects may linger.

The rump Orleans Parish School Board, unlike all other districts in the state that have their elections in off-presidential election years, have its conducted during presidential election years. One casualty was outgoing president Thomas Robichaux, in a landslide. It had partly to do with race, since the district he had won in the post-Hurricane Katrina aftermath political chaos was majority black and he is white who faced black opponents, but was exacerbated by the board’s decision earlier this year to raise taxes, which was opposed largely by black residents.

So, Robichaux decided to manufacture an issue out of nothing as a parting gift. No stranger to giving the citizenry a Bronx salute, on the issue of ethics, he gave it another when he spearheaded a move to for the half-dozen schools the district still controls to prohibit the teaching of “creationism” or “intelligent design” in science classes or to allow teachers to use textbooks that in the Board’s opinion did that.

Except, of course, state law already prohibits that. The Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows for use of material and supplementary textbooks in classes to promote critical thinking, also states that in science curricula the law “shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion.” Yet despite this extraordinarily clear rendering, believe it or not Robichaux actually considers the law “misnamed” and claims it does the exact opposite of what its text obviously indicates.

He’s not the only simpleton out there. A number of Louisiana politicians have criticized the law on the same basis, joined by other special interests as well. All of which indicates people are willing to suspend their critical thinking abilities in order to promote a political agenda through meaningless grandstanding.

And points us exactly to why Louisiana education has lagged the country and the developed world. When political correctness trumps genuine education, you get much of the population – and number of elected officials – who can’t think for themselves, much less logically so and utilizing facts. While this measure may be useless and have no impact at all, that it even was presented as an issue needing addressing speaks very poorly to the reasoning skills and/or desire to put proselytizing ahead of educating of those involved.

Robichaux is gone, along with other OPSB incumbents, hopefully replaced by more sophisticated thinkers. But when you have such dunderheads making education policy, it’s no wonder reforms to improve the critical thinking abilities of children through school performance, teacher abilities, and school board alterations such as term limits are so virulently resisted. Reformers continue to win policy and legal battles, but this attitude shows it’s going to be a long time and long road ahead for improvement that will require stamina by those who care about children.

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