The most important report is the Tampa Bay Times’ Gradebook Blog podcast: Inside the debate over Florida textbooks. It’s well worth your time to listen.
With the rise of Common Core, some conservative Florida groups began taking a closer look at what information appeared in school textbooks and other materials. They found “objectionable” content in some districts, and have continued to raise complaints since. Along the way, they worked with lawmakers to make it easier to challenge textbooks. The issue is now coming to a head in Collier County. Keith Flaugh of the Florida Citizens Alliance and Eric Otto, an associate professor of humanities at Florida Gulf Coast University who has written on the issue, discuss the debate with reporter Jeff Solochek.
Flaugh’s main argument is that Florida law requires textbooks to be balanced. He believes that there are a lot of scientists who don’t think evolution is valid, therefore there needs to be balance in what’s taught about it in schools. He cites the book Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer as his proof, saying that it’s loaded with footnotes that demonstrate the abundance of evolution-doubting scientists. (The book was panned by many knowledgeable folks.)
Otto did a good job of revealing the Alliance’s motives. (And he gives a couple of shout-outs to us. Thanks, Eric!) Go. Listen. Now.
In other news …
WINK News has a video story: Group voices concern over new science textbooks in Collier County schools. It’s a typical local TV news piece that simply solicits folks’ opinions but doesn’t do any real reporting. But this is a great quote:
And parent Eric Otto said “Knowing some of the history of where they [Florida Citizens’ Alliance] stand ideologically. I think what they want is religion to balance science in a science class. To me that seems like teaching financial literacy in a english class.”
ABC 7 has this story: Florida group sues Collier schools over unbalanced science books. That’s a completely erroneous headline. The Alliance isn’t suing over the science textbooks, yet.
“I’m here to tell you that it’s not up to the school district to indoctrinate kids with one view as a proven fact rather than present both sides,” Flaugh said.
He said evolution should be taught along with creationism, and that climate change should be taught with an alternative viewpoint too.
He want’s balance in education.
The Naples Daily News: Evolution? Climate change? Debate over science textbooks renewed in Collier County.
Harris said the book [“Miller & Levine Biology” by publisher Pearson Education Inc.] promotes the “utter nonsense” claims surrounding Darwin’s theory of evolution, “wrongly claiming that DNA evidence unambiguously supports common ancestry of all living organisms” and “ignoring the growing body of scientific evidence that show that there is not enough time in the fossil record to generate many complex features we see in life.”
“Every year seems there’s an effort to give citizens more say in the materials that get used in the classrooms,” Hartley said. “Will parents eventually have a say in what their children learn, or will their child’s education be overridden by political groups?”
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has been a staunch supporter of our efforts here at Florida Citizens for Science and we’re happy to see they’re staying on top of the Collier County situation: Florida Group Upset Over Absence of Creationism in Science Textbook.
To help school districts with fight unnecessary challenges designed to waste their time and resources, CBLDF has organized with other likeminded freedom to read advocates and created the Florida Education Defenders. The organization works to limit the negative effects of HB 989 by:
- Tracking book challenges in the press and through confidential reports
- Sharing resources on book adoption and challenges, including guidance for defending science texts
- Providing guidance to teachers confronting challenges
- Supporting administrators with policy guidance and best practices for reviewing instructional materials
- Mobilizing the Florida education community to advocate for policy and legislative reforms
Anyone who learns of a challenge in Florida is encouraged to report book challenges online. The form can be found here.
Florida Education Defenders is a joint effort by CBLDF, National Coalition Against Censorship, Florida Citizens for Science, Florida Conference of Historians, Florida Education Association, American Library Association, Authors Guild, National Council of Teachers of English, and PEN America.