Today, one might hope that Jindal, having established himself as a force in his party, might be willing to spend just a little of his political capital to take a stand on the side of science. No such luck. In fact, things are getting substantially worse. This year Louisiana established a scholarship program to allow students from underperforming public schools to receive state tuition aid in the form of vouchers to attend private schools. Whatever the merits of this program might be, observers in the state were stunned when they saw some of the schools on the list of those eligible to accept the vouchers. They include a school whose students will be taught to “discern and refute the lies commonly found in textbooks,” including, of course, evolution. Another school prepares students to “defend creationism through evidence presented by the Bible,” and yet another assures students that no instruction is included in its textbooks “that would conflict with young earth creationism.”
According to Zack Kopplin, a blogger and college student who is monitoring the implementation of the voucher program, at least 20 schools may qualify for as much as $11 million of taxpayer money to teach creationism to Louisiana students when school starts at the end of the summer. What this means, in plain language, is that Gov. Jindal has given wholehearted support to a program that will use public money to teach scientific nonsense to the young people of his state.
Jindal has recently appeared on television as the Romney campaign’s designated education surrogate. This means that Jindal’s approach to science miseducation may soon extend well past the borders of Louisiana.
Imagine, for a moment, that Jindal becomes the vice presidential nominee. Given his track record in Louisiana, can we expect a sudden shift in favor of scientific integrity and quality science education? I’d like to believe that Jindal’s courting of the creationist vote in his state has been nothing more than a matter of political expediency. Maybe once he faces a national audience, he’ll shake that Etch A Sketch and make his peace with science. We’ll see. But the times are critical, the record isn’t promising, and Jindal’s legacy in Louisiana schools has been shameful.