Article on science standards/evolution in The Ledger

The Ledger ran an article today about the new draft science standards and predictably focused entirely on the inclusion of evolution. As I’ve mentioned before, I think that is irresponsible and sensationalist. I understand that evolution garners high interest, but the real story is that the standards are being improved overall. I know I’m not going to win that game, though.

FCS president Joe Wolf has been a busy man lately. He was interviewed for this story (even though the online version neglects to mention his first name), along with Jonathan Smith. The article mistakenly reported that Smith represents the National Center for Science Education. He’s actually a FCS board member. Both Jonathan and Joe have tried their hardest to make it clear that including evolution in the standards is actually no big deal. There’s no controversy in the scientific community. Joe also tried his hardest to broaden the reporter’s story focus by talking about the all the standards, not just evolution.

It’s obvious that the story was written by a reporter who knew next to nothing about the subject matter and was assigned to get it done on a short deadline. (No offense intended toward the reporter. This is just the nature of the business. I understand.) A note to anyone who might be interviewed by such a reporter in the future: be a passionate advocate for your cause. Don’t just answer the reporter’s questions and then hang up the phone. Assume that the reporter knows little to nothing about the subject and work hard to politely educate him or her. Give the reporter background information beyond the simple questions he or she might ask. Get the reporter’s e-mail address and follow up that same day with some links to authoritative source material the reporter can read. A list of statements from educational organizations would be a good one. A list of significant court cases is another one. Especially point out the Dover case in that list.

From the article:

A 45-member committee appointed by the state Department of Education began revising the science standards in May in response to a failing 2005 report on Florida’s public school science curriculum by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit group.

I believe that’s incorrect. The standards are being revised as per an established schedule, not as a result of the Fordham report.

Jonathan Smith, a Lakeland resident and a representative of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit group critical of intelligent design, helped write the new standards.

“It (new standards) closed the door on any ambiguity” about evolution, Smith said. “There isn’t both sides. There is only one side as far as science is concerned.” That side is evolution, he said.

Good quote, Jonathan! This is where those links I mentioned above would come in handy as supporting material.

But Mickey Carter, pastor at Landmark Baptist Church in Haines City, said the revisions will be a disservice to students.

He said there should be a balance between both intelligent design and evolution.

“We are denying freedom of ideas, speech and shutting down one side,” Carter said. “The kids ought to be able to study both sides of it so we don’t just turn out a bunch of rubber-stamped robots in the classroom.”

This is not a free speech issue, Carter. This about teaching science in a science classroom. Let me quote from the Dover court decision here: In reference to whether Intelligent Design is science Judge Jones wrote intelligent design “is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community.”

Norm Holland, a dean at Southeastern University and professor of biological chemistry, said intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution. Southeastern describes itself as a “Christ-centered university.”

Numerous theories are taught at Southeastern, including creationism, an effort to mix science and religion, intelligent design and evolution, Holland said.

“We don’t leave anything out,” he said.

Do you really not leave anything out? Do you really have time for all of that?

Smith, who helped write the new standards, said they are much deeper and complex and aren’t just about evolution.

“It (evolution) wasn’t really an issue in framing the standards,” he said. “That would be like saying let’s discuss the alternative theories of gravity.”

Wolf, the Florida Citizens for Science leader, added that the current standards are too vague. The proposed ones focus on fewer topics and should ease the pace and stress of students and teachers.

Another round of good quotes from Jonathan and Joe.

Certainly not the best story about the subject, but FCS is working hard to put things in proper perspective.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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4 Responses to Article on science standards/evolution in The Ledger

  1. Brandon: Good points on being pro-active when talking with a reporter. One of my favorite bosses was a gentle, 50-ish city editor who said a reporter should ask so many questions that he or she emerges certain they understood the story from every angle. If the reporter doesn’t do that, it’s a good idea for the source to help fill in the context.

    I can’t speak to the editorial judgments made by The Ledger, but I did want to let you know that the article on has been updated to include the correct attribution for Joe Wolf. I believe there will be a correction in tomorrow’s print edition.

    — Barry Friedman, Online Operations Director,

  2. Brandon Haught says:


    Thanks for stopping by. We really do appreciate it. And thanks for the name correction. Or maybe Joe is just so famous he only needs the one name: Wolf. 🙂

  3. Joe Wolf says:

    I hope I am not that famous. I am in deep trouble if I am.
    Joe Wolf

  4. Jonathan Smith says:

    How about infamous Joe??

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