Road trip to Collier County: Speaking up for science education

I’ll be on the road tomorrow morning (Monday) headed to Naples on a mission to help speak up for science education. I hope to see some of you folks there so we can finally meet in person.

Why do science defenders need to converge on Collier County? Because a coordinated and determined group of creationists and climate change deniers are attacking what’s in science textbooks the school board is considering adopting for use in classrooms across the county. Because of a relatively new state law, any citizen who submits official complaints about instructional materials used in a school district will trigger a hearing presided over by a hearing officer. And the creationists in Collier County compiled one heck of a list of complaints. Here’s but a taste. There are many, many, many more similar complaints filed:

Textbook: Elevate Science, Kinder
Page Number: 8-11
ObjectionBased: Bias
Objection: Four “experts” are shown. There are 2 blacks and 1 Asian represented. This is not representative of our society
Further, all four are “young.” This is NOT representative of our population or our societal expertise in science.

Textbook: Elevate Science, 1st Grade
PageNumber: entire text
ObjectionBased: Bias
Objection: Again, unrepresentative of various societal groups. Minorities dominate. One white female; no white males.

Textbook: Pearson Elevate Science, Florida Edition Life Science
Chapter beginning p184-244
Evolution presented as fact not a theory.
Evolution, Creationism and Intelligent Design are all theories in the sense they are unproven. Florida statutes require teaching controversial subjects with accuracy, balances and objectivity.

Textbook: Glencoe Biology
Page 383-475
Biase, Error
Earth’s Evolution presented as fact not a theory. This is a very complex discussion. Factual Error, Half-truth, Omission of Fact, Bias, Slant. Many scientists do not believe the earth is millions of years old.

The hearing starts at 3:30 at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center (5775 Osceola Trail, Naples). And we predict it’s going to last a few hours. We science defenders and other miscellaneous attendees will only get three minutes each at the beginning of the hearing to state our cases. But then the creationists who filed the official complaints will get about 20 or 30 minutes each and there are three or four of them. School district officials will also get some time to give their views. Finally, the school board is expected to vote at to close of the hearing.

I plan on being there throughout so I can observe firsthand and report back to all of you. I doubt I’ll do many live posts for the blog here, but I will try to post regular live updates to Twitter and/or Facebook. It all depends on the Wi-Fi and other resources there. So, check in with me on the various platforms around 3:00 or shortly thereafter to find out the circumstances.

I have a good idea what I plan on saying if I get my three minutes (I’m not sure if out-of-towners get to speak). I’m not confident it will make a difference, though. We’ll see.

Here are some helpful links to get you prepared.

>> The Collier County Instructional Materials web page. You can find the hearing procedures near the top of the page. And some recently filed Supplemental Evidence Submissions are below that. Scroll down a little ways to find links to all of the original complaint documents the creationists submitted.

>> The creationists and climate change deniers mainly come from the Collier County organization Florida Citizens’ Alliance. Here is a recent post on their site: FLORIDA SCHOOLS BREAK LAW BY PUSHING LIES ABOUT EVOLUTION & CLIMATE CHANGE. And here is a press release they issued that helps explain their mindset: FLCA Press Release: Why Are Florida School Boards Violating Florida Law?

On May 8, 2018, the Collier County School Board, concurring with Superintendent Kamala Patton, adopted twenty-seven science textbooks. At least fifteen of the textbooks present evolution and man-made global warming as absolute fact. Both subjects remain far from settled in the scientific community and in the minds of the numerous Collier County residents expressing their concerns. Most importantly they violate Florida law (FS 1006.31.2) that requires textbooks to be “accurate, objective, balanced, non-inflammatory.”

Collier County resident, Keith Flaugh, summarized the residents’ concerns in his testimony. “My submissions contain extensive documentation to challenge these materials as absolute fact. Let me state clearly, I am not standing here to tell you one theory is right and one is wrong. (emphasis added) I am saying that you are legally bound to adopt materials that present the alternative views to our students as theories to allow them to make their own conclusions rather than intimidate and bully these young minds with a political agenda.”

>> And here are some of my previous posts about this Collier County mess:

>> If you want to watch the hearing, I’m not sure if it will be broadcast live. It could be here on the televised school board meetings page or perhaps the education live page.

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Florida Science Tests: A move in the right direction but I still have questions

It took four years, but there is finally movement in the right direction for Florida’s public school annual science assessments. It’s not much and it doesn’t prove anything (we’ll need to see positive results for multiple consecutive years before we break out the confetti and noisemakers), but it’s a start.

There are three science exams that public school students in Florida must take: the statewide science assessments in grades 5 and 8 and the high school biology end of course exam. Students have to score a level three or higher on the five point scale to pass. (See all the score reports at the DOE Assessments report page.) The 5th and 8th grade tests cover a variety of science topics, such as the nature of science, earth/space science, physical science and life science. The biology test is the only mandatory statewide science assessment given in high school.

Biology End of Course
Statewide Percentage Passing (Level 3 or Above)
Spring 2017-2018: 65
Spring 2016-2017: 63
Spring 2015-2016: 64
Spring 2014-2015: 65
Spring 2013-2014: 68
Spring 2012-2013: 67
Spring 2011-2012: 59

8th Grade Science Statewide Science Assessment
Statewide Percentage Passing (Level 3 or Above)
2018: 50*
2017: 48*
2016: 48*
2015: 48
2014: 49
2013: 47
2012: 47

5th Grade Science Statewide Science Assessment
Statewide Percentage Passing (Level 3 or Above)
2018: 55
2017: 51
2016: 51
2015: 53
2014: 54
2013: 53
2012: 52

As I point out nearly every year, flip these numbers to get the real story. Instead of 50 percent passing the 8th grade test, reflect on the fact that 50 percent are not passing it. Why are the 5th graders consistently outperforming the 8th graders year after year?

(*)FDOE started a few years ago combining the 8th grade science assessment results with the results of 8th graders who instead took the Biology EOC. The combined statistic reported on most of the FDOE’s documents this year is 52 percent passing in 8th grade. But the pure Statewide Science Assessment – without including 8th grade biology results – has a passing percentage of only 50. I highlighted and questioned this data sleight of hand when I first noticed it a couple of years ago: DOE: Just fudge the results; no one cares about science anyway.

This year a new question occurred to me. It looks like the biology EOC report, which breaks down the performance of the various grade levels of students who took the test, includes 8th graders. Is the DOE using 8th graders’ biology scores twice in their statistics: once in the biology report and again in the 8th grade science assessment results? Why?

And it’s interesting to note how well 8th and 9th graders who took the biology EOC performed. (In many cases the 8th grade test takers are advanced students, I believe.)

  • Out of 10,147 8th graders who took the EOC, 90 percent passed with a level 3 or above.
  • Out of 85,877 9th graders who took the EOC, 81 percent passed with a level 3 or above.

But the older the students get, the worse they do.

  • Out of 82,366 10th graders, 51 percent passed.
  • Out of 12,242 11th graders, 38 percent passed.
  • Out of 2,133 12 graders, 33 percent passed.

This could be worth more analysis. The stark difference between the performance of 9th graders and 10th graders is concerning. What’s the reason for this? Keep in mind these statistics are for students taking the test for the first time, not those retaking the test.

I welcome your thoughts.

I welcome you to see my write-ups about previous years’ results at our Issues Page.

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Collier County textbook hearing: 30 complaints about evolution & climate change

Heads up, folks. Collier County’s official textbook hearing will be on Monday, June 18, and the public is invited to attend and be heard. Go to the instructional materials website where the guidelines for the meeting and the long list on citizen complaints against evolution and climate change being in the textbooks are posted. (See my previous post for some background in case you’re just now joining us concerning science textbook issues in Collier.)

The general public can speak first at the hearing but will only have three minutes for each person and the focus of the comments must be direct and on point. Extraneous comments will be quickly disregarded. Then those who submitted complaints will get 20 to 30 minutes to present their cases depending on how many complaints they had submitted. Officials from the school district will then be allowed a rebuttal and protesters can then respond.

This hearing may take a while. Four people had submitted a total of 30 separate complaint forms. Keith Flaugh of the creationist outfit Florida Citizens’ Alliance is well represented with about nine complaint forms. How do we know the Alliance is creationist? Easy. Just read their complaints — mostly issues with evolution and climate change — and their source material: The Institute for Creation Research, Wikipedia, the Heartland Institute, Conservapedia, and Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt.

The Alliance is relying heavily on the idea that state law governing textbook adoptions requires textbooks be balanced and not discriminate against religion. Similar arguments didn’t work in Martin County, especially when that school district pointed out that the textbooks must adhere to state education standards, which include the teaching of evolution but don’t require so-called alternate ideas. Will that defense be used and stand in Collier County?

Unlike other school districts’ hearings conducted so far (such as Nassau and Martin Counties), Collier County will apparently have the school board present and the board will vote on what to do about the complaints as soon as the hearing is over.

To be continued Monday at 3:30.

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More reactions to Schools Without Rules article

Last weekend the Orlando Sentinel ran an article that’s part of their Schools Without Rules series that investigates private schools that accept public money via various scholarships (aka vouchers): Private schools’ curriculum downplays slavery, says humans and dinosaurs lived together. In a previous post I highlighted some reactions to the article, good and bad. Now a few more reactions have appeared.

First, the Orlando Sentinel ran an editorial: End the double standard for Florida schools educating students with public dollars.

The revelations in Sunday’s story underscore the need for legislators to make another, more serious attempt to raise the bar at private schools subsidized with state scholarships. The next round needs to include some standards for instructional materials. Policymakers owe it to students with state scholarships, and to taxpayers footing the bill.

This should not be hard sell — if those policymakers want all students educated with public money to excel.

Then writer Lauren Ritchie took a shot at the private schools: Florida must stop paying $1 billion a year to ‘educate’ children in fringe religious nonsense.

“Tim Dees, director of Downey Christian School in east Orange County, where 90 percent of his 275 students rely on state scholarships to pay tuition, defended his school: ‘We believe our way is correct. We focus on creationism because that’s what we believe.’

“No problem. Do fundamentalists want their kids to learn a bunch of hillbilly science? Handle venomous snakes? Learn that God looks down on Catholics, that America would still have slavery except ’some power-hungry individuals stirred up the people’? Knock yourself out. Just don’t expect anyone else to pay for it, and stop calling it ‘education.’ It’s not. It’s more like a 12-year sentence to some anamorphic Sunday school class from hell with no time off for good behavior.”

Writer Scott Maxwell also jumped aboard: Enough fraud, scandal and excuses. 5 ways to clean up Florida’s voucher-school mess.

But first, let’s talk about how the voucher industry — and it is an industry, funded by nearly $1 billion of your tax dollars and corporate tax credits — has responded.

With whining, deflection and excuses.

Claims of faith-bashing. What malarkey. I’m a lifelong Christian, a church elder and former Sunday school teacher. I’m not opposed to Christianity. I’m opposed to ignorance. And child-endangerment. And defrauding taxpayers. People who defend these messes at Christian schools with claims of faith-bashing don’t do their faith any favors.

Five things need to happen. (…) 4. Curriculum plans should be filed with the state. Parents deserve to know what is being taught. Taxpayers deserve to know what curriculum they’re funding.

And some breaking news: Scholarship programs at private schools need change, lawmakers say.

Central Florida lawmakers say they’d like to strengthen the rules, including new curriculum standards, for private schools that receive state vouchers after an Orlando Sentinel story showed some schools use textbooks with distorted history and science lessons that are outside mainstream academics.

Will anything actually change? Stay tuned …

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Martin County textbook complaints: “scientific sounding language” fails to impress

A hearing was held on May 9 after several Martin County residents complained about the “one-sided” nature of science textbooks the school board was in the process of adopting. I gave a very detailed account of what happened at the hearing: Martin County textbook hearing: Evolution “is not proven science”. For example:

Joiner objects to Biology because it presents Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in factual manner.
Joan Hoffpauir objects to Elevate Science because it does not address other theories of life in addition to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

The hearing officer has now submitted his summary and recommendation to the school board. And it’s not looking good for the textbook protesters. Here’s the hearing officer’s thorough shredding of their arguments.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
23. Guidance regarding the matter in question is provided by the United States Supreme Court in Epperson v. Arkansas, 393 U.S. 97, 89 (1968), in which the court struck down Arkansas’s prohibition against the teaching of evolution and Edwards v. Aquillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987), which holds that the teaching of creation science violates the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as discussed and explained by the court in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Penn. 2005).

24. Kitzmiller involved issues much like the issues presented by this matter, although the roles were reversed. Suit was filed by plaintiffs challenging the decision of the District School Board permitting instruction of the doctrine of Intelligent Design in addition to the state mandate that required that students learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and ultimately take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

25. The Dover District School Board resolution is as follows:
Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origin of life is not taught.

26. The resolution of the District School Board, with one exception, mirrors the substance of the presentations of Joiner and Robinson. The exception is that they did not identify their cumulative objections as creationism, creation science, or intelligent design.

27. As pointed out in Kitzmiller, at page 711, the utilization of scientific sounding language as advocating the teaching of alternative theories of the origin of human life to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution offends the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because the alternatives are religious in nature, e.g. intelligent design or creation science.

28. The Kitzmiller court, at page 765, concluded that although Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is imperfect the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point does not support an alternate theory that is expressed in scientific sounding language as advocated by Robinson and Joiner and that the courts recognize as being contrary to the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

29. In addition, the rule of administrative deference is applicable to this proceeding. The rule provides that an agency’s interpretation of a statute that it is charged with enforcing is entitled to great deference and will be approved… unless it is clearly erroneous. Bellsouth Telecommunications, Inc. v. Johnson, 708 S0.2d 594, 596 (1998)

30. By reason of administrative deference, the Martin County School Board is obligated to adhere to the science standards established by the Florida Department of Education regardless of the text book(s) that it might adopt. In the instant matter it is noted that the School Board adopted two textbooks, Elevate Science by Miller, Padilla,Wysession and Biology by Miller and Levine from the list of Florida Department of Education adopted science textbooks. Pursuant to the rule of deference, the School Board must presume that these textbooks comply with the science standards for seventh grade science and high school biology promulgated by the Florida Department of Education/State Board of Education.

IV
RECOMMENDATION
Based on the foregoing Discussion of Presentations and Conclusions of Law, it is RECOMMENDED that a final order be entered upholding the adoption of Elevate Science by Miller, Padilla, Wysession and Biology by Miller and Levine.

The school board was scheduled to consider this recommendation at its June 5 meeting. I don’t know what the final result was. The meeting video and/or documentation is not available anywhere online that I know of yet. I’ll report back once I find something out.

Here is the full report from the hearing officer in pdf: Recommended Order – Instructional Material- 05-23-2018 – Julian.

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Reactions to Schools Without Rules article

The Orlando Sentinel published an article a few days ago highlighting the atrocious curriculum some voucher-accepting private schools use: Private schools’ curriculum downplays slavery, says humans and dinosaurs lived together.

Now we’re starting to see reactions to the story. First there is Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano writing about the deeper problems the Sentinel story exposes: Florida’s schools engaged in double standard of epic proportions.

This isn’t about whether you believe in Adam and Eve or the Origin of Species. It isn’t even about whether the Legislature is circumventing the state Constitution with its voucher program.

The bigger picture is that the state has created an uneven playing field. It is pushing private and charter schools as being more innovative and parent-friendly, while at the same time handcuffing traditional public schools with more and more onerous regulations.

Surely, there is something in those religious textbooks that covers hypocrisy.

The Orlando Sentinel’s sister paper the Sun-Sentinel noted that it’s hard to have a conversation about whether private schools that accept public money should teach creationism in science class when members of the general public believe creationism has more validity than evolution: Were dinosaurs and humans alive at the same time? (And is that debate a good use of your money?)

Reader Bob Zydach emailed to take issue with this statement from the initial article: “For the record, dinosaurs died out about 66 million years ago, and the Homo Sapiens species is less than a million years old.”

“These are unproven theoretical ages for dinosaurs and Homo Sapiens,” Zydach wrote. “You need to do your homework before you report things as facts. Just because a lot of people say it, it does not make it a fact. These are theories when I went to school and are still theories today.”

And the Orlando Sentinel recently ran a couple of letters to the editor responding to the original story: 2 views on private religious schools.

The article covered a lot of ground, including academics, racial discrimination and what a science teacher termed “plain-old, misguided, bad, horrible science.” Yet it gave no voice to the idea that the theory of evolution (no matter what current public-school texts say) has never been elevated from the status of theory or that creation scientists have built equally complex models to support their theories. Just ask Answers in Genesis or Institute for Creation Research or Apologia.

Good grief, “the theory of evolution has never been elevated from the status of theory”. My guest opinion column in the Tallahassee Democrat needs to be passed around a lot more: Banish ‘just a theory’ dunces with sound science education.

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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!

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Martin County textbook hearing: Evolution “is not proven science”

We should stop teaching evolution as established fact and instead supplement its teaching with all the gaps and uncertainties that so many of the world’s scientists admit that it is riddled with. That’s the main argument proposed by a few citizens in Martin County who testified before a hearing officer May 9, 2018, about new science textbooks the school district is in the process of adopting (Biology by Miller & Levine and Pearson’s Elevate Science). In years past, these same citizens would have submitted written complaints or spoken for a few minutes before the school board and then would have been politely thanked. End of story. But now due to a new Florida law, any citizen with complaints about textbooks must be allowed to present their grievances, regardless of their merit, in an official hearing presided over by an appointed hearing officer and responded to by school district staff.

The May 9 proceeding was an hour and twenty minutes long. Two men laid out their cases in person at the hearing against the teaching of evolution as fact and a few others who had earlier submitted complaints were represented by written statements due to their not being able to attend. The school district defended evolution in the science textbooks with testimony from the district’s chief academic officer and the district’s science coordinator.

The Collier County school district is also facing complaints from citizens about evolution in the science textbooks. The main similarity between Collier’s and Martin’s protests is that they’re claiming that the textbooks don’t adhere to Florida Statute requirements. Here is what one of the Martin County citizens said during the May 9 hearing:

“Florida Statutes declare that materials recommended for instructions should be accurate, objective, and balanced. Within the scientific community, the origin of species is a debated topic. Since there is controversy within a scientific community it is unbalanced to present evidence from only one side. And to present that one side as seemingly factual is also not accurate.”

But the Collier and Martin groups are taking significantly different paths in their efforts to make the textbooks “accurate, objective, and balanced.” Collier County protesters are boldly and proudly demanding that evolution be balanced with creationism, according to their (Florida Citizens’ Alliance) website, their multiple statements to the media, and their statements at a recent school board meeting. But the Collier citizens haven’t had their official hearing yet, so we’ll see if that tactic changes.

Martin County protesters are attempting to stay clear of overt mentions of creationism. Their written objections that had sparked the need for a hearing (see my previous post about the objections) did request things like: “Develop a curriculum which presents the fact that evolution is theory and not fact, making room for other beliefs.” But there was no explanation of what those other beliefs might be. And during the May 9 hearing, creationism was never mentioned. One protester stated: “I would like to first point out that my objections to these instructional materials are not solely based on my personal belief system but are grounded in our established Florida Statutes.” That’s about it.

Instead, the Martin citizens spent all of their time at the hearing testifying that the textbooks’ treatment of evolution is not accurate or balanced. They brought up a long list of examples of prominent scientists questioning the theory of evolution. The protesters pointed out several supposed inaccuracies in the textbooks. They insisted that evolution counterarguments need to be included in the textbooks or some type of supplementary materials and that the inaccuracies need to be removed. They argued that evolution should not be spoon-fed to students as settled science as that stifles critical thinking.

But when the hearing officer asked the gentlemen for specific information about what should be given to students, neither had an answer. For instance, here is one exchange:

Citizen: Well, my conclusion is that this textbook presents only one side of a controversial scientific subject. And I’m also concerned with the inaccuracies presented. To be accurate, objective, and balanced more information must be presented than is in this textbook. Therefore, I suggest the best solution will be to develop or procure supplements, supplementary materials, that offer parallel explanations and to not use the textbook as the sole source of information. Presenting only one side of a controversy should not be recognized as good teaching.

Hearing Officer: What parallel theories do you propose?

Citizen: I do not have that information.

And here is another exchange:

Hearing Officer: Now do you have a suggestion that the board should consider in terms of textbooks?

Citizen 2: I do not and the reason for not coming prepared with that is that I read the Florida Statutes and I did not see really, and this was just possibly my mistake, but I do not really see a place where I was specifically at you know instructed to bring my own supplementary materials. Of course, I did … when I originally filled up the objection form I believe that we should have replacement. I also understand that Al was talking about supplementary materials. I did mention supplementary materials as well. But yeah that’s my reasoning.

Hearing Officer: So that I’m clear, and I think this question goes to both of you and I think this is what I have gleaned from your presentations, is that you believe the current textbooks, Biology and Elevate Science, are short, deficient as good as word as any, in that they do not present the possibility of other theories to Neo-Darwinism.

Citizen 2: Not necessarily other theories because within evolution there are so many different ways that they believe it started. Even to just add that in. I mean, that there’s, you know, other ways that we believe life started. I’m not proposing any specific way. I’m just saying that I feel like our students deserve, you know, other ways to know that it’s not just set in stone. That there’s a frontier out there that they can really explore. But when you when you just kind of give them that this is what most people think, well then they’re gonna think like most people, and not critically.

Hearing Officer: So you believe that the material should be supplemented …

Citizen 2: Yes.

Hearing Officer: … by material that suggests there are other explanations, or that Darwin’s explanation needs to be expanded upon.

Citizen 2: Correct.

Citizen 1: We go so far as to say that the material ought to at least point out the fact that there are gaps in the theory. That there is controversy and it makes no mention of a controversy.

Hearing Officer: Sure.

Citizen 1: And I think that was some effort, people could come up with materials which present other information on the other side of the controversy.

In response to the complaints, the school district representatives relied heavily on the Florida State Science Standards. One powerful argument was:

For the standard, one of the main standards that we’re discussing, and mostly we’ve been discussing today the Miller and Levine biology book, the standard is SC.912.L.15.1 … (miscellaneous discussion about where the information is in the notes) … requires that students explain how scientific theory of evolution is supported by the fossil records, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, biogeography, molecular biology, and observed evolutionary change. Florida’s science standards do not call for any such material that includes a presentation of alternative theories.

Additionally, the school district had reached out to textbook author Kenneth Miller to get his response to the complaints. The district included in their testimony this quote from Miller:

However, authentic critical thinking does not involve misleading students by presenting ideas that have been rejected for cause by the scientific community in a way that gives them equal standing to accept a well tested theory and principle.

The next step in the Martin County process is for the hearing officer to submit a written recommendation to the school board based on the information he gathered at the hearing. That’s supposed to happen within 14 days; however, I don’t know if that is 14 days including weekends or just 14 work days. Depending on the answer to that, the document should be submitted by either May 23 or May 30. Then the school board will make a final decision on what to do about the complaints at their next board meeting.

I have no idea what to expect. If I was forced to make a prediction, I’d say that the hearing officer is going to recommend that the school board take no action on the complaints. The protesters didn’t come prepared to the hearing with a specific course of action for the school district to take other than change the textbooks or provide supplementary material. What specific changes? What supplementary material?

But I could be wrong. I don’t know if the hearing officer was swayed at all by the protesters’ lengthy list of dissenting scientists examples. And I don’t know the backgrounds of the school board members, other than board member Rebecca Negron is the spouse of Florida Senate President Joe Negron. It’s worth keeping an eye on this.

I’ve included “below the fold” of this post the full transcript of the hearing. You can also listen to the hearing — it was only audio recorded, not video recorded. I’ve uploaded the hearing recording to YouTube. During the upload, I was forced to break it into two parts. Part one. Part two. I’m sincerely interested in hearing your thoughts!

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