Florida has a new Board of Education chairman: Andy Tuck.
When the state science standards were rewritten in 2008, Tuck was vice chairman of the Highlands County school board. Several school boards passed resolutions opposing the inclusion of evolution in the new standards. Highlands seriously considered a resolution but eventually backed down. But Tuck did say this:
School Board Vice Chairman Andy Tuck said Thursday, â€œas a person of faith, I strongly oppose any study of evolution as fact at all. Iâ€™m purely in favor of it staying a theory and only a theory.
â€œI wonâ€™t support any evolution being taught as fact at all in any of our schools.â€
Then in 2014 Tuck was appointed the state board of education. Reporters recalled his earlier stance on evolution and so decided to follow up with him now that he was at the state level. This is what he said:
â€œIâ€™m not an evangelical right-winger,â€ he told me. â€œIâ€™m not trying to get religion in schools.â€
Tuck said his problem is that scientists canâ€™t say for certain how the universe began.
â€œI guess the thing I struggle with is youâ€™re teaching evolution to fifth-graders and you get done and one says, â€˜Where did it start?’â€ he said. â€œAnd you say what?â€
As I said back in 2014: Keep in mind that the creationist tactic (Iâ€™m not calling Tuck a creationist, but rather referring to the general tactic used by todayâ€™s creationists) is to find some way to cast doubt on evolution in the classroom. Decades of legal losses whenever creationists have tried to outlaw evolution instruction or insert blatant creationism into the curriculum have forced them to clean up their overtly religious language. Now they want to allow teachers to spend time on â€œother theoriesâ€ while declining to be more specific about those other theories that teachers might bring up are. They want to force a bogus disclaimer into evolution lessons that there are â€œstrengths and weaknessesâ€ to the theory. These are the kinds of moves Florida Citizens for Science faced in 2008 when a state Board of Education member and some lawmakers in the state legislature tried tinkering with the state science standards. So, we canâ€™t feel safe and comfortable when someone says â€œIâ€™m not trying to get religion in schools.â€ We heard that over and over again in 2008.
The reason why I bring this up is because he’s now in an even more elevated position at a time fraught with worrying changes happening to our state education system. This summary from the Tampa Bay Times highlights why I’m concerned:
The board is closely aligned to the Governorâ€™s Office, and is taking a key role in overseeing actions including a standards review that Gov. Ron DeSantis has demanded. It appointed Corcoran â€” DeSantisâ€™ choice for commissioner â€” without considering other options and is seen as a strong ally in pursuing the governorâ€™s education agenda, which has focused on expanding vouchers, charter schools and other choice options in addition to pushing for improved outcomes in district schools.
Do you think we should be worried?