Most Floridians are still enjoying their turkey eating and deal hunting and so not much is developing concerning the filing in our state legislature of an “academic freedom act” bill by Sen. Dennis Baxley. It was introduced quietly last Friday and as soon as I was alerted to it I spread the word to education reporters across the state. But it’s Thanksgiving week and so many reporters are enjoying a few days off and I presume Baxley is unavailable for comment anyway. So, we won’t see any Baxley quotes or in-depth reporting for a while yet. Nonetheless, the Orlando Sentinel did get us started with a quick story, as I posted about earlier.
But Sun-Sentinel columnist Fred Grimm wasted no time tearing into the bill along with other past creationist shenanigans in his piece: Darwin deniers inject religiosity into Florida biology classes. Here’s just a couple of samples of his take.
But it’s that damned Darwinian theory of natural selection that has these activists frothing. That’s what inspired Ocala state Sen. Dennis Baxley, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, to introduce yet another bill last week designed to muddle science education in Florida’s public schools. Baxley filed legislation that require “controversial theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective and balanced manner.” That same coded language has shown up in legislation in other southern states where lawmakers are intent on injecting ol’ time religion into biology lesson plans.
But thanks to the magic of gerrymandering, Florida’s Bible belt runs the show in Tallahassee. God and guns are our priorities. (The Florida Citizens Alliance website also complains, “Our kids are being indoctrinated in our public schools and being taught that our 2nd Amendment right to self-defense is outdated. They are being taught to support gun control and depend on government to protect them.”)
Except this kind of civic leadership leaves Florida with an intellectual contradiction. Even while we support medical researchers worried about the evolution of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, and astronomers who measure distances by millions of light years, we’ve got politicians wanting Florida school children taught that our entire biosphere clocks in at just under 7,000 years old.
But I wouldn’t bet against Sen. Baxley’s bill. The chairman of the Governmental Oversight and Accountability has real power in Tallahassee. Back in 2005, as a member of the House of Representatives, he was co-sponsor of Florida’s infamous Stand Your Ground legislation. Earlier this year, he pushed through a “religious expressions” bill, giving public school students the right to express religious beliefs in school assignments, wear religious clothing and jewelry to school and to “pray or engage in and organize religious activities before, during and after the school day.”
Go read the whole thing for yourself. It’s definitely educational.
What amazes me is that the Alliance has yet to say anything about the bill or the negative response to it yet. Interesting.