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Meet Zack Kopplin, the 19-year-old who started winning battles against teaching creationism in Louisiana public schools when he was 14

IO9 profiles Zack Kopplin, a 19-year-old, five-year veteran of the fight against teaching creationism in Louisiana's science classes. Kopplin was a student when the a law came into effect allowing teachers to bring creationist material to class, and he took up the cause, winning a battle that prevented the exclusion of evolution from Louisiana science classes altogether. Kopplin has been vilified by state legislators and creationists, but refuses to give up the fight. If I can raise a kid with this much sense, savvy, passion and ethical commitment, I'll consider my life to have been worthwhile:

He also has his eyes set on vouchers. After an Alternet story came out about a school in the Louisiana voucher program teaching that the Loch Ness Monster was real and disproved evolution, Kopplin looked deeper into the program and found that this wasn't just one school, but at least 19 other schools, too.

School vouchers, he argues, unconstitutionally fund the teaching of creationism because many of the schools in these programs are private fundamentalist religious schools who are teaching creationism.

"These schools have every right to teach whatever they want — no matter how much I disagree with it — as long as they are fully private," he says. "But when they take public money through vouchers, these schools need to be accountable to the public in the same way that public schools are and they must abide by the same rules." Kopplin is hoping for more transparency in these programs so the public can see what is being taught with taxpayers' money.

How 19-year-old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana’s creationists [George Dvorsky/IO9]

Creationist fifth grade science textbook used in Louisiana public school


On Buzzfeed, Andrew Kaczynski reproduces pages from About Science 5, a fifth grade science textbook used in some Louisiana public schools, which teaches Biblical creationism alongside of evolution as the origin of life. As the publisher's page says, "Science 5 focuses on man's use of God’s creation and design."

Here Is What Louisiana Schoolchildren Learn About Evolution

Crazy stuff they'll teach in Louisiana's publicly funded charter schools

Louisiana governor (and retired exorcist) Bobby Jindal has signed an aggressive charter school bill that will transfer millions in tax dollars to religious academies run by evolution-denying, homophobic, climate-change-denying Christian extremists. Mother Jones's Deanna Pan went for a dig through these schools' official texts and discovered that Louisiana's publicly funded education system will soon tell some of its luckiest students that the KKK "achieved a certain respectability" by fighting bootleggers; "the majority of slave holders treated their slaves well;" dragons might be real; "dinosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time," and many other fun facts.

3. "God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ."—America: Land That I Love, Teacher ed., A Beka Book, 1994...

7. The Great Depression wasn't as bad as the liberals made it sound: "Perhaps the best known work of propaganda to come from the Depression was John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath…Other forms of propaganda included rumors of mortgage foreclosures, mass evictions, and hunger riots and exaggerated statistics representing the number of unemployed and homeless people in America."—United States History: Heritage of Freedom, 2nd ed., A Beka Book, 1996...

10. Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson were a couple of hacks: "[Mark] Twain's outlook was both self-centered and ultimately hopeless…Twain's skepticism was clearly not the honest questioning of a seeker of truth but the deliberate defiance of a confessed rebel."—Elements of Literature for Christian Schools, Bob Jones University, 2001

"Several of [Emily Dickinson's] poems show a presumptuous attitude concerning her eternal destiny and a veiled disrespect for authority in general. Throughout her life she viewed salvation as a gamble, not a certainty. Although she did view the Bible as a source of poetic inspiration, she never accepted it as an inerrant guide to life."—Elements of Literature for Christian Schools, Bob Jones University, 2001...

12. Gay people "have no more claims to special rights than child molesters or rapists."—Teacher's Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools, 1998-1999, Bob Jones University Press, 1998

One text also decries mathematical set theory as ungodly.

14 Wacky "Facts" Kids Will Learn in Louisiana's Voucher Schools

Judge okays exclusion of damaging emails from BP oil spill trial

A judge has granted requests from defendants in the BP oil disaster case to exclude various emails from trial. The details of the emails are an interesting read. For instance: At Halliburton's request, the court will not include an email from a BP geologist to a colleague in February 2010 which offered "thanks for the shitty cement job." (Reuters) Xeni

Louisiana commissioner proposes ban on public pajama-wearing

Caddo Parish, LA commissioner Michael Williams is sick and tired of being able to discern guys' penises through their pajamas at WalMart (apparently, the men of Caddo like to go to WalMart in their jammies, which is pretty boss if you ask me -- I live in my jimjams). He's proposed a local ordinance to prohibit the wearing of pajamas in public.

"Pajamas are designed to be worn in the bedroom at night," said Williams, likely after extensive research on the history and design of pajamas. "If you can't [wear them to the] courthouse, why are you going to do it in a restaurant or in public?" (Um, because those aren't courthouses?) Williams also invoked the "slippery-slope" argument, of course. "Today it's pajamas," he said, "tomorrow it's underwear. Where does it stop?" Seems to me there's only one further step once you get to underwear. This guy is really not that imaginative.

If Pajamas Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Wear Pajamas

Giant Diesel loco throws a piston


This 2010 message-board post allegedly details the mayhem wrought when CN locomotive 2699 ("a 212 ton, 6 axle machine powered by a 4400 hp V16 4 stroke Diesel") threw a piston while passing through Independence, Louisiana. The piston punched a hole in the roof of a nearby house, ploughed through the upper story and came to rest embedded in the wall of the ground-floor living room. I can't find any news reports to substantiate the description, though.

Locomotive Engine Failure - Blown Piston (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Report: BP dispersants are making people sick

corexit.jpg

Things could be going from really bad to even worse around the Gulf of Mexico, for residents and for BP. An investigation by Al Jazeera reveals that the dispersants BP is using to treat the spill are making people sick.

There are already a number of reports about the toxicity of oil itself, but this investigation by Al Jazeera suggests the problem is bigger than that: already toxic dispersants are forming new compounds when combined with crude oil that become even more dangerous— not just for the environment, but for the humans who live and work there.

"Naman, who works at the Analytical Chemical Testing Lab in Mobile, Alabama, has been carrying out studies to search for the chemical markers of the dispersants BP used to both sink and break up its oil.

According to Naman, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from this toxic mix are making people sick. PAHs contain compounds that have been identified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic.

Fisherman across the four states most heavily affected by the oil disaster - Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida - have reported seeing BP spray dispersants from aircraft and boats offshore.

"The dispersants are being added to the water and are causing chemical compounds to become water soluble, which is then given off into the air, so it is coming down as rain, in addition to being in the water and beaches of these areas of the Gulf," Naman added.

"I'm scared of what I'm finding. These cyclic compounds intermingle with the Corexit [dispersants] and generate other cyclic compounds that aren't good. Many have double bonds, and many are on the EPA's danger list. This is an unprecedented environmental catastrophe."

Read the rest