The Alachua County School Board met recently and judging from this story, it was a fightin’ affair from start to finish. All sorts of people were irritated about all sorts of things. Near the end of the story is an interesting subject sparked by an audience member’s question.
Another audience member stood up and asked about a policy regarding the teaching of controversial issues, asking whether a teacher who wanted to teach evolution in a class would also have to teach intelligent design.
The proposed policy states that when presenting a controversial issue “the teacher shall present all sides of the question without bias or prejudice and shall permit each student to arrive at his/her own conclusions.”
Board Chairwoman Ginger Childs reiterated that the board hopes all controversial issues will be presented with a “fair and legitimate and a balanced presentation.”
“We are trying not to mandate to teachers what they can and cannot teach,” Childs said.
Childs tried to dodge a bullet there, but instead stepped right into the line of fire. Advocates for inserting intelligent design love those little code words of “both sides,” “fair,” and “balanced presentation.” Not that there is anything wrong with being fair, but when evolution has overwhelming support from the scientific community and intelligent design has, well, none, what is there to be “fair” about?
This proposed policy on controversial issues has a foul stench to it. What prompted it? Who proposed it? Why was it brought up?
If you’re in Alachua County, could you please help us get to the bottom of this?
Here is the text of the policy that I believe is in question found in this document.
The responsibility and right of an instructional staff member to present information of a controversial nature is hereby recognized. The teacher shall not present controversial material or issues which are not directly or closely related to the subject area being taught. In presenting controversial materials on an issue, the teacher shall present all sides of the question without bias or prejudice and shall permit each student to arrive at his / her own conclusions.
I don’t know if this is a “new” policy as mentioned in the story or an already existing policy. I see notes in the document that mention having been adopted in 1999, but I don’t see a difference in the document and the wording mentioned in the newspaper story.
I’m trying to track down what exactly is going on before getting too alarmed. Nonetheless, it is interesting that some unnamed person decided to bring up evolution and intelligent design during the meeting.
Update II …
Ahh, I found the proposed new policy by going through the school board’s agenda for that meeting reported on in the newspaper. The new policy (#2240) does go into quite a bit more depth than the old (quoted in my previous update).
The Board believes that the consideration of controversial issues has a legitimate place in the instructional program of the schools.
For purposes of this policy, a controversial issue is a topic on which opposing points of view have been promulgated by responsible opinion or likely to arouse both support and opposition in the community.
The responsibility and right of an instructional staff member to present information of a controversial nature is hereby recognized. The teacher shall not present controversial material or issues which are not directly or closely related to the subject area being taught. In presenting controversial materials on an issue, the teacher shall present all sides of the question without bias or prejudice and shall permit each student to arrive at his/her own conclusions.
Controversial issues may not be initiated by a source outside the schools unless prior approval has been given by the principal.
The Board recognizes that a course of study or certain instructional materials may contain content and/or activities that some parents find objectionable. If after careful, personal review of the program lessons and/or materials, a parent indicates to the school that either the content or activities conflicts with his/her religious beliefs or value system, the school will consider a written request for his/her child to be excused from a particular class for specified reasons. The student, however, will not be excused from participating in the course and will be provided alternate learning activities during times of such parent requested absences.
The Superintendent shall develop administrative procedures for dealing with controversial issues and with parental concerns about program content or the use of particular materials. Furthermore, the Superintendent shall prepare administrative procedures detailing the manner in which students and parents will be adequately informed each year regarding their right to inspect instructional materials and the procedure for completing such an inspection.