Florida hasn’t been on the Discovery Institute’s radar lately but an article in Nature got them riled up a bit. The DI’s rant “Shock: Florida Laws Would Give Floridians a Say on Science Education” complains about the Nature piece “Florida residents could soon get the power to alter science classes.”
The DI says that allowing citizens input into the selection of textbooks is a good thing. And it is. But a mechanism for citizen input was already in place before our new law expanded their potential influence and mandated a burden on school districts of possibly having official hearings before an appointed hearing officer. The clear intention is to dilute the input of subject matter experts and give more influence to creationists, climate change deniers and other fringe ideas in all academic subjects. We know that for a fact because we’ve been tracking the source of this legislation.
The irony is rich in the DI’s rant:
Wait a minute. Unlike the shape of the earth, the mechanisms of evolution are hotly contested in mainstream science. Unfortunately, it is all too common for students to receive one-sided teaching about neo-Darwinism, amounting to indoctrination. That’s not “objective.” So, as far as it pertains to evolution, a bill that encourages responsible, factual instruction about scientific evidence on both sides — does Darwinian theory adequately explain biological diversity or not? — sounds pretty good! Of course, where there is scientific controversy, science should be taught in a balanced manner. Isn’t science all about critical thinking, weighing and examining data? Bringing a “flat Earth,” or “creationism,” into the discussion doesn’t make sense.
As usual, the DI believes their wacky ideas should be treated seriously but those flat-earthers are nuts.
And creationism was brought into the discussion by the very people who wrote Florida’s new law and the bill in this year’s legislative session.
Fortunately, it looks like this year’s bills that would have allowed even more textbook shenanigans are dead (SB 1644 and HB 827). And the other pair of bills that would have mandated in all science classes “Controversial theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner” never really even made it out of the gate (SB 966 and HB 825).
And the DI finishes the piece with:
But the idea that citizens and legislators weighing in will degrade the science education their children receive?
That’s un-American. It’s also dogmatic, not open-minded and scientific.
No. Diluting the input of education and science experts with the uninformed opinions of Joe-the-creationist-with-an-axe-to-grind runs counter to the purpose of education.