The science journal Nature published an article about antiscience bills that have cropped up across America, with a special focus on our very own Sunshine State: Revamped ‘anti-science’ education bills in United States find success. The piece focuses on the instructional materials bill that pretty much sailed through the state House and Senate.
The Florida legislation, for example, does not try to change state or district education standards. Instead, it enables any tax-paying resident of a given county to file complaints about the curriculum of the schools in their district. A complaint would trigger a public hearing to determine if the material in question is “accurate, balanced, noninflammatory, current, free of pornography … and suited to students’ needs”, according to the legislation.
“But who decides what ‘balanced’ and ‘noninflammatory’ mean?” asks Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, based in New York City. Currently, instructional materials come from an approved list provided by the state, she says.
However, I think it’s important to note something missing from each and every news outlet’s coverage of Florida’s antiscience legislation. Even our friends at the National Center for Science Education never touched on it. No one ever talks about the religious liberties bill that also successfully made it through the lawmaking gauntlet. We here at Florida Citizens for Science were against that bill from the beginning because of its potential negative impact on science education. I even personally testified during public comment time at a Senate hearing about it. I encourage you to read through our series of posts on the bill. Admittedly, we eventually took our focus off it, because it was clear we had no chance of stopping it and we felt that our time and energy were better spent on the instructional materials bill. But we’ve felt throughout that the religious liberties bill was still a threat to science education.
We’ve been right all along.
The group [Florida Citizens’ Alliance] supported legislation that also passed Friday to protect students and educators who wish to express their religious beliefs in school from discrimination. If signed by the governor, Flaugh said his group will use it in conjunction with the instructional materials bill to contest textbooks that demonstrate “bias toward Islam and seldom mention Christianity,” and promote those that push for a Christian view of the origins of life.
“Darwin’s theory is a theory, and the biblical view is a theory, and our kids should be taught both in a balanced way,” he said.
Any time you take any action in protest against the implementation of the instructional materials bill, I encourage you to mention the religious liberties bill, too. They’re connected at the hip and we need the general public to be aware of that.