Report from the field: Clay County school board meeting

A report on the science standards discussion in Clay County comes to us from dc in the comments in this earlier post.


The Clay County School Board just approved a modified form of the resolution by a vote of 5-0. 22 of the 27 speakers at the meeting opposed the resolution and they covered pretty much all the bases. Some were quite eloquent, including several retired pastors and two of my former students. The five supporters said nothing we hadn’t heard before although the word dogma and its variants showed up a lot when referring to Darwinism. Two (Including a teacher at my own school. Sigh.) emphasized teaching all the “facts” and letting students decide. I was surprised that the local churches didn’t try to pack the meeting room until someone pointed out that this didn’t start to get publicity until after last Sunday’s services.

The resolution that passed had two, maybe three significant wording changes made. In paragraph two, the word “fact” at the end of the last line was changed to “theory.” The new line reads, “…direct the Florida Department of Education to revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is clarified as a theory.” The last paragraph was also modified so that the last phrase reads, “…revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science such that evolution is designated as a theory.” I think they also voted to change the word “concept” in the standard to theory (nobody on the board was too sure of what the difference was, the lawyer for the board wouldn’t say anything without first looking it up in a dictionary, and nobody wanted to ask the two actual standards writers in the audience what the difference might mean.) It was all reminiscent of Bacon’s tale of the monks trying to figure out how many teeth a horse has with none of them willing to just look in its mouth and count. I’m pretty sure they made the change. One of the board members said we wouldn’t have spent two hours discussing the resolution if evolution was a fact.

I wasn’t surprised that the resolution passed but I was dumbfounded when a board member asked about the origins of the resolution, who wrote it and who brought it to the board, and our superintendent, David Owens said he was responsible for, “all of the above.” He said later that he worked with Paula Barton, Superintendent of Schools for Baker County, to write and distribute it. A couple of us are working to get a copy of the recording of the meeting (video and audio). Earlier in the meeting Owens said that everybody in the room was obviously passionate about their ideas and beliefs. He asked how many concepts in science changed over the years when the information changed? How did we know evolution wouldn’t do likewise. We shouldn’t be so dogmatic about this. We should pass this resolution because it reflects our beliefs. Beliefs equals experimental data. No wonder we have such low science scores down here.

The attorney for the board said that the resolution came as close as possible to violating the Kitzmiller decision without actually crossing the line. The board members were, I think, voting on this as a CYA thing and at least three of them said it wouldn’t make a difference with the state BOE anyway. Maybe if we start good science education now we can have more scientifically literate adults in the future.


Thank you for that report, dc.

Here’s a television brief on the meeting. It’s obvious that whoever put the brief together had no idea what was going on. No idea at all!

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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