Plan to teach evolution approved with caveat
Floridaâ€™s Board of Education today approved new standards for teaching science in kindergarten through 12th grade. The Board voted 4-3 to approve the science standards that for the first time include the word "evolution."
Late Friday, an alternative to the proposed standards was suggested that added the term â€œScientific Theory ofâ€ throughout the standards before the word â€œevolutionâ€ and â€œScientific Theory ofâ€ or â€œLaw ofâ€ before other scientific concepts. This was to appease some members of the public who want to create the appearance of a debate within the scientific community regarding evolution, said Board member Roberto Martinez. in an exchange with fellow board member Donna Callaway.
Ultimately, both voted in the minority against the new standards with the addition of â€˜Scientific Theory ofâ€™ before evolution and other concepts. Callaway told a newspaper in November she would vote against the standards. Today she tried unsuccessfully to include a so-called â€œAcademic Freedom Proposal.â€
Martinez felt the addition of the word â€œtheoryâ€ was just creationism â€œcloakedâ€ in the language of academic exploration.
â€œWe know where all this criticism is coming from. And the idea here is to dilute and single out evolution, the teaching of evolution. â€¦ For us to try to tinker with the wording of it here, at the podium, I think is a mistake.â€
Most of the experts who wrote the standards said the option adding â€œScientific Theory ofâ€ should not be included, according to Mary Jane Tappen, the executive director for the Office of Math and Science.
Tappen said new standards were written because of low science performance by Floridaâ€™s students and a large gap between the stateâ€™s different demographic groups. The current science standards had received an F rating, but according to Tappen, the originally proposed standards were an immense improvement.
Yet, the Board still voted to modify the standards to include â€œScientific Theory ofâ€ before evolution and other concepts, a move that Roberto Martinez said is â€œwatering downâ€ the standards. There was one hour of public comment before the Board of Education decided to accept the new standards with revisions.
Ten people were allowed to speak in favor, and 10 in opposition.
John Stemberger, who led the effort to put the marriage restriction amendment on the ballot this November, is president of the Florida Family Policy Council. Stemberger promoted the â€œAcademic Freedom Proposalâ€ rejected by the Board. It proposed changing one of the science standards that reads, â€œEvolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.â€ The proposal changed the beginning of the statement to read, â€œEvolution is a fundamental conceptâ€¦â€ and added â€œâ€¦ and teachers should be permitted to engage students in a critical analysis of that evidence.â€
Stemberger predicted that many students would leave the stateâ€™s public schools because of the new science standards.
Florida resident Jonathan Smith said that the ignorance of the opponents of evolution is the best argument for including evolution in the science standards. Smith said despite their claims that religion is not the issue, there has been a concerted effort to disguise â€œtheocratic ideology,â€ as outlined in the "wedge strategy" by Philip E. Johnson of the Discovery Institute.
Before the public comment, three Florida Legislators addressed the board. North Florida Republican Marti Coley spoke in favor of the addition of the words â€œScientific Theory ofâ€ that was adopted by the board. Democratic Minority leader Dan Gelber spoke in favor of the original standards, as did Tampa Republican Rep. Ed Homan.
"This is not a scientific theory; this is the way things happen. And how did our creator make this happen? Evolution is his method of making this happen. So the conflict, I donâ€™t understand, personally as a scientist, and as an educator, and as a Christian, why weâ€™re having the debate. There is the science of evolution, but the explanation as to how our creator made this happen, this is his method of doing it,â€ Homan said.
Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council said because the proposal to inject a debate about evolution into the stateâ€™s science classrooms failed, going to the Legislature might be their next option.
â€œI think it is, it has to be, yeah. We donâ€™t do our science by public opinion polls, but this is really good science and itâ€™s good policy as well and itâ€™s something that parents support in Florida, by overwhelming majorities, so.â€
The board members who voted for the new standards including the addition of the phrase â€œScientific Theory ofâ€ before evolution were Phoebe Raulerson, Kathleen Shanahan, Linda Taylor and Board Chair Willard Fair; in addition to Roberto Martinez and Donna Callaway, Akshay Desai voted against.
The new Sunshine State Standards for Floridaâ€™s science classes will go into effect in the fall. They will replace the current standards that do not directly refer to evolution, only â€œbiological change through time.â€
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