Blatant creationism in “Schools Without Rules”

The Orlando Sentinel has been running an excellent investigative series called “Schools Without Rules” about private schools that accept public money in the form of various types of scholarships (otherwise known as vouchers). The articles have been documenting “problems in some scholarship schools, including campuses that hired teachers without degrees and with criminal records, forged fire and health inspection forms, and faced eviction midyear because they failed to pay their bills.”

The latest installment is right up our alley: curriculum, especially for science. The headline gets the point across: Schools Without Rules: Private schools’ curriculum downplays slavery, says humans and dinosaurs lived together. I’m quoted toward the end:

“That was just plain-old, misguided, bad, horrible science, talking about dinosaurs and humans living together,” said Brandon Haught, a science teacher at University High School in Volusia and member of the advocacy group Florida Citizens for Science, who also reviewed the materials.

Haught said all the texts, compared with what he uses in his public high school, seemed to downplay “actually doing some science.” They also disregard a key point of science — that not all answers are known, that there are more discoveries to be had.

That quote was just a snippet from my interview that lasted more than an hour. However, the video that goes along with the story has some additional information not in the print version and features me talking about the use of the word “theory” (at about 5:19) and explaining the potential impact of such horrible curriculum (at about 7:42). Make sure you take the time to watch it. It’s the one right by the headline. There’s another video further down on the story’s page that gives a good overview of the entire series of articles.

Also accompanying the main story is a sidebar story focused on the companies that supply the curriculum to the private schools: Who is behind Christian curriculum companies that supply lessons to Florida’s voucher-funded private schools?

Abeka, along with the Bob Jones University-affiliated BJU Press and Accelerated Christian Education Inc., is among the most popular curricula used by Christian schools that take part in Florida’s $1 billion voucher program, which pays for children from low-income families or those with special needs to attend private schools.

A have a few books from these companies that I used as reference when writing my book, Going Ape: Florida’s Battles over Evolution in the Classroom. I wrote about voucher-accepting schools in chapter eight. That’s part of the reason the Sentinel reporters interviewed me; I’m already familiar with this stuff. Yes, the books used in some private schools’ science classrooms are awful! And our tax dollars are paying for them!

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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4 Responses to Blatant creationism in “Schools Without Rules”

  1. Ted Bell says:

    Thanks for bring this to our attention. It sounds as though the Sentinel is performing an important public service.

    At the Martin County meeting, school administrators stressed that, since the School District was in the public school system, it had to implement the science (and other) standards as determined by the state of Florida Education Department. This was, in many respects, the nail in the coffin for most objectors.

    When a school that isn’t in the public school system accepts public money, are they obliged to teach to the same standards as the public schools in the same state? Or perhaps these “Schools without Rules” can just make up their own standards and curricula?

    • Brandon Haught says:

      Nope. My understanding is that private schools can teach whatever they want, even if they accept vouchers. I believe voucher students in private schools must take some type of nationally recognized tests in math and English but that’s it. No science test at all. The public would have no idea what’s going on in these schools if it wasn’t for the Orlando Sentinel’s School Without Rules series of articles. It’s ridiculous.

      • Ted says:

        You said it- that’s ridiculous!

        I don’t have a problem giving state money to private schools – so long as it is the same amount of money that the state would spend on educating an equivalent student AND so long as they teach, at a minimum, to the standards/curricula set by the state. For example, Catholic schools in Australia are a very large part of the schools system in most states, but they must teach the state curricula and students must sit state examinations. When the Catholic Schools teach “religion”, etc, then they do it in their own time, so to speak.

        So I’m quite surprised about the US situation. I would have thought that it would be unconstitutional (but what would an Aussie know) to give state (or federal) money to a school where it is essentially i) unaccountable and ii) used for religious purposes.

        • Pierce R. Butler says:

          I would have thought that it would be unconstitutional … to give state (or federal) money to a school where it is essentially i) unaccountable and ii) used for religious purposes.

          So it says in the plain text of the Florida constitution, and by strong implication in the US Constitution.

          It doesn’t state in either document that shallow and transparent work-arounds for such inconveniences may be enacted by the Republican Party, but that doesn’t matter because it says so in the Bible.

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