Polk County ponders intelligent design
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12/05/07 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

Beginning next fall, the Florida Department of Education (DOE) will have a new set of Sunshine State Standards, with benchmarks for teaching science in kindergarten through the 12th grade. The DOE has set up a website for public comment on its proposed science standards.

Lawrence Lerner is a professor emeritus from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at California State University, Long Beach. He read and critiqued the proposed Florida Science Standards for the National Center for Science Education.

“It was an infinite improvement over the last set of standards. It was generally good. Like all drafts, it needs a little tweaking, a little editing and so forth.…”

The proposed standards have disappointed some who want intelligent design taught in science classrooms. The proposed science standards say, “Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.”

The Lakeland Ledger reported in November that “four of the seven Polk County School Board members have said they support teaching intelligent design in addition to evolution in public school science classes.”

Kay Fields is a school board member who represents District 5, which has the largest population in the district and includes Kathleen High School. She was unavailable for an interview but told WMNF by email that, “Intelligent design is not presently taught in Polk County schools. I believe that if evolution is mandated so should [sic] intelligent design.”

But Brandon Haught, the Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science disagrees.

“You wouldn’t teach Spanish grammar in a biology classroom because it’s not science. I mean that’s a very, very obvious statement to make. Well, the same thing can be said for this concept of intelligent design. It also has nothing to do with science. It really doesn’t.”

In 2005, a federal judge barred a Pennsylvania public school district from teaching intelligent design in biology class. Former Lakeland Mayor Frank O’Reilly who represents District 1 said he is concerned about a lawsuit if his county’s schools teach intelligent design as science.

“I’m not going to subject my School Board and my school system to hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of a lawsuit to pay lawyers. I think that ought to be determined by the Department of Education and let them be brought to court by individuals so that it is cleared up before it gets down to the school boards in August. I mean, we just can’t afford having everybody, every religion, every belief, coming in saying, ‘OK, we’re going to sue if you don’t have this or you don’t have that.’ Let them do it in one clean swoop up in the Supreme Court of the state of Florida and let that be determined once and for all.”

WMNF attempted to contact the other five members of the Polk County School Board, but they were not available for comment. Polk County Schools Superintendent Dr. Gail McKinzie was also unavailable.

Learn more:

Florida Standards

Science Standards Review website

Polk County School Board

Florida Citizens for Science

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