Polk County ponders intelligent design
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.
â€œIt 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.â€¦â€
The proposed standards have disappointed some who want intelligent design taught in science classrooms. The proposed science standards say, â€œEvolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence.â€
The Lakeland Ledger reported in November that â€œfour of the seven Polk County School Board members have said they support teaching intelligent design in addition to evolution in public school science classes.â€
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, â€œIntelligent design is not presently taught in Polk County schools. I believe that if evolution is mandated so should [sic] intelligent design.â€
But Brandon Haught, the Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science disagrees.
â€œYou wouldnâ€™t teach Spanish grammar in a biology classroom because itâ€™s not science. I mean thatâ€™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 doesnâ€™t.â€
In 2005, a federal judge barred a Pennsylvania public school district from teaching intelligent design in biology class. Former Lakeland Mayor Frank Oâ€™Reilly who represents District 1 said he is concerned about a lawsuit if his countyâ€™s schools teach intelligent design as science.
â€œIâ€™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 canâ€™t afford having everybody, every religion, every belief, coming in saying, â€˜OK, weâ€™re going to sue if you donâ€™t have this or you donâ€™t have that.â€™ 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.â€
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.
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