House Bill Analysis

Do me a favor. Read this bill analysis for Florida House Bill 1483 (the deceptively-named “academic freedom” bill). See if you arrive to the same conclusion I have: Essentially, this analysis is calling this bill pure garbage. The screeching cry for “academic freedom” is clearly shown to be a farce by this document. If passed, the bill would destroy any semblance of clear, consistent, cohesive science education across the state. School administrators could find their hands tied, and students could wind up getting substandard education and flunking portions of the science FCAT. Here are just a few excerpts:

The bill, in effect, with regard only to biological or chemical evolution restricts the ability of the State Board of Education or the district school board to define and regulate curriculum content.

However, it is unclear how this provision will be executed if other “objective and relevant” curriculum, which is within the teacher’s purview to determine, is inconsistent with the prescribed curriculum.

Finally, if a principal, the district school superintendent, or the school board determine that the information a teacher is presenting is not objective, relevant, or scientific, then the administration must prove its case prior to any action against a teacher. This may result in case-by-case determinations which, based on the propensities of the science teachers in the district, may prove frequent and challenging. This bill will affect costs of administering the science curriculum and, although indeterminate, may increase litigation expenses for the school district.

“Course materials” may include any supplemental “scientific, relevant, objective” information deemed appropriate by each, individual science teacher. Accordingly, the teacher could include in any student evaluation the content of such supplemental course materials. To the degree the supplemental course material contradicts the established science curriculum (as set forth in the SSS and established by the school district), the student is put in a tenuous situation.

The two bill analyses done on the Senate side were similar in tone. This bill is just a court case waiting to happen, and in the meantime students potentially suffer from a convoluted science education. I’m flabbergasted that the Senators who voted for this garbage had their bill analyses right there in front of them. It’s obvious they didn’t bother to read that sound advice.

As you call or e-mail House representatives, tell them to do two things:

  1. Read the analysis very carefully
  2. Ask the bill’s presenter (Rep. Hays) to provide some examples of “scientific” and “relevant” information that refutes evolution.

Don’t let Hays off the hook like Senator Storms was. Arm the representatives with basic information about Kitzmiller vs. Dover in the event Hays brings up intelligent design. (Intelligent design was found to be devoid of science and based on religion in a federal court of law.) Feed the representatives information to counter Hays if he runs off at the mouth about “gaps in the fossil record” or “there are no half rats and half bats.” Those are not valid “scientific” and “relevant” arguments; rather, they’re tired old creationist talking points that were trashed years ago (examples here, here, and here).

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
This entry was posted in "Academic Freedom" bills '08. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to House Bill Analysis

  1. James F says:

    My bullet points were 1) no definition of “scientific information,” so what was the point of adopting world-class science standards? 2) no secular justification for singling out evolution, so it’s unconstitutional (see Edwards v. Aguillard, Kitzmiller v. Dover), and 3) no “alternate” scientific theories to evolution exist (ID is based on supernatural explanations). It would be nice if the vote isn’t another party-line sham.

  2. Captdave says:

    It may be too late now, but if you haven’t e-mailed them yet, this is probably the easiest way. Copy a message, I’m using the one below, and paste it in e-mails, using the addresses listed in the URL below:

    http://www.flascience.org/wp/?p=536
    _________________________________________________________

    This message urges you to vote NO on passage of HB 1483, due for a vote at 9:30 am, Friday, April 11.

    As a concerned citizen, I am disturbed by the constant efforts of the religious right (a small minority) to impose their religious beliefs in the public schools, especially at the expense of accurately teaching science. This time the effort to impose religion in the science curriculum appears as SB 2692 (the so called Evolution Academic Freedom Act), and HB 1483 (its house companion).

    I assume you have heard of Kitzmiller v. Dover. Can Florida afford to defend an unnecessary lawsuit in these hard times?
    __________________________________________________________

    If you use the web page, you have to fill in a few extra unnecessary details. They aren’t going to phone you or send a Christmas card. I had what I thought was a frank conversation with the aide of one senator. The legislators do not read the e-mails of course. The aides have to, but naturally are so sick of it and the only thing that registers is yes or no on an issue. I guarantee that anything beyond a few sentences will be a waste of your time. The legislator gets a yes/no tally but they have already made up their minds.

  3. Captdave says:

    Here is the full sample letter that I received from CFI.

    If you like it, you might want to either bookmark this page or copy and save this letter for when these bills come up for a vote before the full legislative bodies. So far it has just been in committees. Remember to change the first part. The senate bill is SB 2692.

    Talking Points

    Please use this for generating ideas for your personalized letter:
    ___________________________________________________________

    This message urges you to vote NO on passage of HB 1483, due for a vote at 9:30 am, Friday, April 11.

    As a concerned citizen, I am disturbed by the constant efforts of the religious right (a small minority) to impose their religious beliefs in the public schools, especially at the expense of accurately teaching science. This time the effort to impose religion in the science curriculum appears as SB 2692 (the so called Evolution Academic Freedom Act), and HB 1483 (its house companion).

    These bills claim to protect the rights of teachers to “objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in connection with teaching any prescribed curriculum regarding chemical or biological origins”. It also ensures that “public school students in the state’s K-12 school system shall be evaluated based upon their understanding of course materials through normal testing procedures. However, students shall not be penalized for subscribing to a particular position or view regarding biological or chemical evolution.” However…

    The problem with these bills is that they allow the teacher to “teach the controversy” about evolution. Even if the teacher cannot openly teach Intelligent Design or Creationism, they can use every opportunity to undermine the theory of evolution when it is brought up in class. The Florida science standards writers and framers explicitly named the theory of evolution as the cornerstone of biology. However, because of SB 2692 and HB 1483, the framers and writers’ efforts at defining the scientific consensus on the origin of the diversity of life could be nothing more than a waste of time since the teachers can teach their own “consensus” on the theory of evolution. Teachers should not teach their own ideas, but teach the ideas developed by biologists who have spent their entire lives studying nature and carefully crafting and testing the scientific theories that have helped us to understand how life came to be what it is today.

    Notice in the bills that the evaluation of a student’s understanding of evolution is limited to tests and does not appear to include other means of knowledge evaluation. So the bills could allow student to respond to homework assignments about evolution with the words “I don’t believe in evolution. God did it.” Since teachers are expected to teach the science standards (which include evolution) to their students, it is unconscionable to put such impediments in the way of the teacher who is simply trying to do his or her job.

    Isn’t the purpose of a science class to teach science, as it is deemed to be by scientists? Is it permissible to promulgate one narrow belief system of religion in the public schools under false premises of “alternative theories”?

    Scientists specializing in the fields dealing with chemical and biological evolution, with near unanimity, declare that there is neither a “controversy” nor a “flaw” in the Theory of Evolution. Both SB 2692 and HB 1483 state that there are alternatives to science that teachers should be able to teach. What alternatives? Is the purpose of these bills to protect NOT teaching science in a science class?

  4. pat says:

    I think the housing bill is nothing more than a bailout of irresponsible people for the responsible taxpayers to pay or the fatcats to feed on.

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