Help us supply Florida classrooms with needed science materials

I wrapped up an awesome first week of school with my high school freshman environmental science honors classes. My students explored my room to learn about me and my class. We learned how human perception is easily fooled by optical illusions, investigated the amazing color changing card trick, and experienced our brains jumping to conclusions. Since my classroom rules all center on the word “respect,” students worked together to develop their own working definition of the word. And we prepared our Interactive Science Notebooks for a year full of environmental science investigations.

I supplied the 140+ composition science notebooks for my students because I want them all to be the same type (college ruled, 200 pages) and want them assembled and ready to go this week without waiting for students to bring in their own. I was able to pull this off because of a generous donation from a local business, Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. But not every teacher can be that lucky, as this story makes clear: These Teachers Find Creative Ways to Economize on School Supplies. (You’ll see a familiar name in that story!) So, let’s help out some Florida teachers who really want to bring science alive for their students but lack the funds to fulfill their education dreams.

It’s time for the launch of the 5th Annual Florida Citizens for Science Fundraising Campaign!

One of our energetic and highly motivated members — Albert Melcolm, a student at Florida State College, Jacksonville — did the hard work of combing through the many projects on the Donors Choose website to select four dedicated teachers who requested science materials for their classrooms. Here’s a little bit about each:

Mrs. Wieman Starling at Mariner Middle School, Cape Coral
“Amazing Reactions in Science”

Many students struggle to comprehend the differences between chemical and physical properties, and how to recognize them. Without that knowledge, understanding all other concepts connected to matter can feel impossible, especially for my students with special needs. These kits will provide my students a hands-on opportunity to see and experiment with various elements and chemicals to experience the differences themselves. The students will work in small groups to design their own inquiry project using the supplies. After testing its complete, they will analyze their findings and present them to the class. Once this project is completed, we will build on their new knowledge to understand matter and its place in the natural world.

Mrs. B. at Eneida Massas Hartner Elementary School, Miami
“Enhancing Our Science Classroom”

When it comes to science, it is different than any other subject. In science, you get to learn by exploring nature, doing science labs, and experimenting with many different things. Being able to explore in these ways requires the right equipment. Trying to do science labs and experiments on a traditional desk are somewhat difficult because of the size of the desk and the possibility of the desk separating and materials falling. If my students were able to have tables instead of a desk, they would be able to explore science comfortably with the much-needed space that tables give. The tables would also make our classroom look and feel like a real science classroom.

Ms. Downing at Seminole High School, Sanford
“Building Bonds”

Modeling kits are essential. Whether aiding the kinesthetic learner or contributing to learning as a visual aid, models demonstrate the otherwise intangible to the students. By using models, such as the requested Biochemistry Student Sets, students will have an opportunity to create a 3-Dimensional replication of atoms and molecules. They will be able to simulate bonding structures. Having these opportunities will allow students to explore a microscopic world to see how atoms form elements that create the molecules that make up the world in which we live in. My students would sincerely appreciate the chance to have the opportunity to have access to modeling kits to further investigate chemical principles.

Mr. Christmas at Pinetta Elementary School, Pinetta
“DASH and Doodle”

Students will gain coding experience using the DASH robot and accessories, and gain valuable STEM experiences using the Wonder Workshop Sketch Kit helps to express their creativity & develop critical thinking skills as they draw shapes, patterns, words, & more. STEM and CODING experience will play a vital role in the lives of today’s young students. The items purchased through this project will help to inspire the young GIRLS and BOYS I teach to enter the vital STEM fields of the future. For many of my students, this will be their first exposure to this type of technology. Please help me bring this exciting experience to the lives of the children in my class.

How you can help

Would you like to help out these teachers and students? Go to our Giving Page and make a donation to the project of your choice. We’re going to run this campaign for a full month, until September 18. When the campaign is over, Florida Citizens for Science will match total donations up to $500! And if all four projects are funded before our deadline, we’ll add more!

We hope to keep our trend of increasing donations year to year. Our first campaign raised $1,507 and last year we generated $2,943. Can we top that?

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Voter Guides II: “Both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution should be taught.”

A couple of conservative organizations recently released a new batch of voter guides for school board races in Indian River, Lee and Clay counties. In a previous post I highlighted voter guides for Lake, Marion and St. Lucie counties.

The Indian River County voter guide, issued by the group Florida Votes Values, doesn’t mention anything directly related to evolution. But the Lee County one does include this statement, which candidates are asked whether they support or oppose:

Amend DOE Curriculum Framework for Biology and Life Science to allow the teaching of life by intelligent design.

Five candidates “failed to respond,” one candidate is undecided, and one candidate supports that statement.

The Clay Family Policy Forum released a voter guide for Clay County. It includes the following statements, which candidates are asked whether they support or oppose:

Florida Statute FS 1006.31 mandates that all instructional materials adopted by school boards in the state be “accurate, objective, balanced and non-inflammatory”. New science textbooks adopted in February 2018 by a 3-2 vote of the Clay County School Board teach evolution exclusively

Both the strengths and weaknesses of evolution should be taught.

Evolution only should be taught.

Interestingly, not a single candidate stood up for evolution education, with some possibly going with the undecided or “chose not to respond” options instead.

Keep in mind that earlier this year, when the Clay County school board considered adopting new science textbooks, they engaged in lively debates about evolution in the classroom. Once board member said:

But my difficulty lies in the narrow scope as it relates to the theory of human and species origin in that the only theory mentioned is evolution. And all that is expected for students to know is its supporting evidence and none of its flaws. At best, this limited level of exposure for students to the highly contested views on the origin of life and species is negligent. At the worst it’s intellectually deceptive.

And the district superintendent said:

“In no way, shape or form do our textbooks or will our textbooks ever reflect evolution as a fact because the fact that our state standards does not allow us to do so.”

Read these blog posts for the full story:

I’ve encountered many people who don’t believe evolution education in schools is still an issue. They’re shocked when I inform them about all of the troubles we’ve had concerning this issue right here in Florida, right now in 2018. That’s why I write posts like this one. Everyone needs to know that there are citizen groups and candidates for office and actively serving politicians who certainly do think evolution education in our schools is a serious problem. They vote. They make important decisions. They pass laws. It’s the people who don’t think that it’s an issue who are allowing the vocal minority to undermine quality science education.

So, what I’m saying is: you can help support quality science education by simply casting an informed vote and educating others about the issues. Share this post widely.

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Voter Guides: Florida candidates asked about intelligent design

In an earlier post I asked you to be on the lookout for any local voting guides that include questions for candidates about science education. We now know the conservative organization Florida Votes Values started rolling out their surveys with ones for Lake, Marion and St. Lucie Counties, and they’ve promised more are on the way.

Among the topics candidates are asked to support or oppose are:

  • Amend DOE Curriculum Framework for Biology and Life Science to allow the teaching of life by intelligent design.
  • Allowing parents the right to withdraw their children from classes teaching material contrary to their moral values.
  • Stressing basic academic skills (i.e. reading, writing, mathematics) over social programs (i.e. social engineering, political advocacy on specific issues, organizing political protests, etc.)

Specifically mentioning intelligent design, which was found to be a religious view and not science during the 2005 Pennsylvania Federal District Court case Kitzmiller v. Dover, seems like a very dumb move here. It looks like the statement was simply copied from previous years’ surveys. That’s OK. It helps us establish a paper trail in the event someone does get elected and tries to stir up trouble of this nature.

Meanwhile, the folks at the Florida Citizens’ Alliance have partnered with the Christian Family Coalition Florida to produce voter guides. However, no science related topics are included on the surveys released so far. Interesting.

Please be on the lookout for other voting guides and let us know if you find any!

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It’s time to get engaged!

Local Elections Matter

The Collier County school board narrowly approved new science textbooks for their schools 3-2 over protests from citizens about evolution and climate change. The Martin County school board approved science textbook adoptions by the same one-vote margin when citizens there also complained about evolution and climate change.

Either vote could have swung the other way if only one school board member was swayed by the citizens’ complaints.

This is why elections matter. School board candidates are on ballots across the state. For example, in the aforementioned Collier County, three people are running for the District 5 School Board seat. One candidate, Mary Ellen Cash, is on the record with her views on science instructional materials.

In a February 2017 affidavit posted on the Florida Citizens Alliance website, Cash expressed several concerns about CCPS [Collier County Public Schools] operations. Regarding the instructional materials used in the District, she wrote, “I have witnessed students being taught evolution as a fact of creation rather than a theory …. I have witnessed children being taught that Global Warming is a reality…. There is a liberal agenda being taught in our schools…..”

The website Sparker’s Soapbox is keeping track of those Collier County elections. The author there notes:

Four years ago, just 18 percent of eligible voters voted in the August School Board elections. Two Board members were elected with the votes of half of them. One beat her nearest opponent in a three-way race by just over 5100 votes; the other beat his only opponent by just over 4100 votes. In all elections, but especially our School Board primaries, voter turnout determines the outcome.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we need to keep track of candidates’ views not just in Collier County, but across the entire state. It’s just a matter of time until engaged organizations, local and statewide, start issuing voting guides based on candidate surveys. I’m surprised I haven’t seen many yet. But they’re coming. Once you find one, please let us know.

Candidates for Governor and U.S. Congress

Local elected positions are important but so are the elections that send folks to the Governor’s office and the U.S. Congress. With that in mind, Science Debate developed ten questions on science and technology topics and is actively seeking candidates’ responses. They were successful in getting every major presidential candidate since 2008 to participate. Now they’ve expanded their scope to gubernatorial, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate candidates.

Science Debate needs our help. So far, only one Florida candidate has responded: James F. Henry, Democrat, U.S. House District 11. We need a lot more Sunshine State participants and that will only happen if you join the effort to put the questionnaire in front of candidates.

Contact your candidates and encourage them to respond to the 2018 Q&A! We drum up as much interest and support as we can, but what matters most to candidates is what their potential constituents request. You can find your candidates at Ballotopedia.

You assistance is vital to Science Debate’s mission of informing voters candidate’s views on science and technology topics. Will you help?

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Be on the lookout for election season questionnaires

Candidate qualifying for elected office is now over and those running for various offices are fully engaged in campaigns for the primary elections. That also means that groups statewide are going to be poking and prodding the candidates to learn their stances on a wide variety of issues, education being a prime one. Other than debate forums, a favorite way for organizations to learn about candidates is the questionnaire/survey.

For instance, back in 2016 the organization Clay Family Policy Forum sent questionnaires to the candidates that were absolutely jam packed with loaded questions about conservative issues. Among the questions on the six-page survey school board candidates got were these:

  • Parents should have the right to withdraw their child from classes teaching material contrary to their sincerely held ethical values and/or religious beliefs.
  • Evolution should be taught as a fact.
  • Both strengths and weaknesses of evolution should be taught.

Candidates were simply asked to check a box for support, oppose or undecided. On Clay Family Policy Forum’s forms there was no extra space afforded for candidates to write a more nuanced response. They just had to mark whether the were for or against the provided statements.

The above examples are from the 2016 election season. But groups should start announcing the results of their 2018 candidate surveys soon. We here at Florida Citizens for Science are asking you to be on the lookout for them and let us know when you find some, especially if they include questions related to science education. We can then link to them and help inform voters. You’re assistance in this is invaluable!

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Martin County’s evolution vote: “And I think if you’re not going to teach both then you shouldn’t teach either.”

At long last I have official word about what happened to the objections filed against science textbooks proposed for adoption in Martin County. Refresh your memory by reading my previous posts about Martin County:

It was another close vote: 3 to 2 in favor of adopting the textbooks and rejecting the filed objections. There was also a close 3 to 2 vote in Collier County recently.

With that in mind, let me make a point: elections matter. Especially local elections. The vote in Martin or Collier County could have swung the other way with just one more person dissenting. Elections matter. As you’ll see in just a minute, school board members in Martin County complained about micromanaging and unfunded mandates from lawmakers in Tallahassee. This whole textbook hearing process was forced on local school boards, costing them time and money. So, who your votes send to Tallahassee matters.

Now let’s get into the June 5 Martin County school board meeting. Have you ever heard of the Dazzler? She’s a comic book hero I fondly remember from my childhood. She was a singer on roller skates who could turn sound energy into eye-popping light displays, dazzling her concert audiences and her supervillains.

I do hereby proclaim school board member Rebecca Negron the Dazzler of Martin County. She spent nearly half an hour launching one quote after another after another at the audience and her fellow board members. She would quote from the contested textbook and then follow that with multiple quotes from various scientists and others who appear to rebut the textbook’s statements. She mentioned Jeffrey H Schwartz, Ernst Mayr, Scientific American, New Scientist, Lee M Spetner, Dr. John Sanford, W. Ford Doolittle, Eric Bapteste, Lawton Graham, Richard Buggs, Gerd Muller, New Trends in Evolutionary Biology, Nature Research in Ecology and Evolution, Kevin Padian, Reports of the National Center for Science Education, Henry Gee, Robert Sokal, Peter Sneath, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, Michael Richardson, and Gavin De Beer.

In other words, she was attempting to dazzle the audience with what appears to be scientists versus scientists arguing over the validity of evolution. She did this in an attempt to convince everyone that the textbooks violate Florida statute that requires the books be “accurate, objective, and balanced.” How can the books be accurate and balanced if so many “evolutionists” (she kept on pointing out these quotes came from scientists and evolutionists) were refuting what was in the high school science textbooks?

And Negron didn’t even finish her dazzling display. She had a few more pages to read when she was politely cut off by a school member who asked that Negron take a break so that another agenda item could be taken care of.

I believe that the dazzling strategy has potential. To folks who aren’t familiar with the creationist strategy of quote mining, the list of so-called evidence seems overwhelming and impressive. The time it would take for a knowledgeable person to shoot down each individual quote Negron was flinging would be way too much – hours at least – for a school board meeting or textbook hearing. That’s what Negron the Dazzler is counting on. And if she can convince other school board members that her dazzling shows that the textbooks violate Florida statute, she wins. It nearly worked this time. (On a side note: she is married to state senator Joe Negron who recently resigned his senate seat.)

What was Negron the Dazzler’s ultimate goal? (Quote from my transcript of the meeting.)

I believe that we could find supplemental materials, just to give the evidence against evolution. And I think that would be, would address that problem. Now whether we can or not I would have to lean on the attorneys. To me we can, you know, we can create curriculum for our students. So I don’t see why we couldn’t have supplemental materials that just say, you know, this is what the textbook says and these are some of the things, the evidence against evolution, or the difference.

Of course, Negron was one of the nays when it came time to vote. The other nay was from Michael DiTerlizzi. I’ll let him speak for himself (from my transcript of the meeting):

Actually, when my son went through this in high school — maybe was middle school, I don’t remember — but they were teaching, the teacher came in dressed as a cavewoman. And long story short, he questioned her and wound up having to do his own presentation on creationism. And I think if you’re not going to teach both then you shouldn’t teach either. It’s really where I feel.

One of the yes votes in favor of the textbooks was Tina McSoley. She made a couple of excellent points about the whole textbooks hearing process itself. She asked the district staff how much the hearing cost. The hearing officer cost about $1,800. Creating a transcript of the hearing cost about $900. And school district staff devoted somewhere around 40 to 50 or more hours just to this issue. Who paid for this? The school district. McSoley made sure to point out for the record that this was an unfunded mandate forced on the school districts by lawmakers in Tallahassee. All of that expense and time was used because a few people (who McSoley pointed out didn’t have children in the district schools) submitted objections to the textbooks, which by law then requires that the official hearing be held.

Here’s what I said in a Florida Citizens for Science press release back in May 2017:

We believe that should this bill become law with the governor’s signature, people who crusade against basic, established science concepts such as evolution and climate change will have the green light to bog down the textbook selection process on the local level and bully school boards into compromises that will negatively impact science education.

The current textbook selection and review process allows parents to have a voice. But this bill would now allow any citizen, not just parents, to formally complain about what’s in instructional materials, allowing anyone with an ideological agenda to protest on behalf of their pet cause. The bill also requires school boards to appoint a hearing officer to consider such complaints, adding onerous extra steps to the process and potential additional expense.

Our concerns were waved away by legislators who sponsored the law, saying we were alarmists about some slippery slope worst case scenario that will never happen. We now know who was right, don’t we?

Another yes vote came from Marsha Powers. She had an interesting point:

And you know this is why we will never have really great science teachers. And we’re not going to be able to recruit good science and math and STEM because we’re constantly being micromanaged at the local level. Everybody’s throwing your hands up. So I, you know, I choose as a school board member to have a level of trust in our teachers and our staff.

I’m going to wrap this up by restating my point from earlier: elections matter. Local elections matter. Your vote matters.

I’ve included “below the fold” the full transcript related to the textbook issue from the board meeting. It took a very long time to make. It is possible that there are some errors in it. And some of it may be confusing because these are the words of people who are doing the normal human thing of stumbling over their words and trailing off incomplete thoughts. You can find the original audio recording (there was no video) here.

Continue reading

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News Roundup

This is a quick roundup of recent news articles associated with current events Florida Citizens for Science has been involved in.

Orlando Sentinel: Director stands up for his Christian voucher schools
The director of three private Christian schools that accept state scholarships takes issue with Sentinel columnist Lauren Ritchie who criticized state spending in voucher schools that teach “fake science and distorted history.”

“We use the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, and we teach creationism. We also supplement A.C.E. with other materials and welcome diverse dialogue in every area of study.”

National Center for Science Education: Victory in Collier County, Florida

Similar objections have been filed elsewhere in Florida, including in Brevard, Martin, and Nassau counties, but the Collier County school board’s vote was particularly significant because the law was vigorously supported by groups based in Collier County whose members acknowledged that they objected to the treatment of evolution and climate change, among other topics, in textbooks used in the public schools.

Naples Daily News: Evolution, climate change skeptics lose battle over Collier science textbooks

Evolution and natural selection are “a total indoctrination of liberal ideas,” wrote Collier parent Melissa Pind in her complaint. “Very disgusting and disappointing that this is included and no other viewpoint is even mentioned! What a shame that kids’ minds aren’t opened up to other possibilities.”

WINK News: Collier school board, parents debate evolution content in science textbooks

The meeting comes after the school board had already agreed on the new science textbooks back in May. But one formal objection automatically triggered the hearing. Four people in Collier County raised 220 objections altogether.

On one side of the issue, parents like Jim Kelly say the textbooks are too focused on evolution and not enough on other theories.

“When books just present one side of a theory or argument and doesn’t present balance, it’s unfortunate,” Kelly said.

Pine Island Eagle letter to the editor: Non-secular nature of public schools must be preserved

A friend posted an article on a Florida group suing Collier County schools over “unbalanced” science books as a reminder that our local school board elections are really important and that we must all vote. And that includes the August primaries!

Naples Daily News letter to the editor: Textbooks should contain science

State Rep. Byron Donalds’ House Bill 989, passed in 2017, allows any county resident to contest school curricular materials in Florida. So far it has only resulted in stalling the purchase of new textbooks and costing school districts countless hours and precious funding to hear partisan fundamentalist challenges to curriculum materials.

 

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What I did during my summer break, Collier County edition

I’ll start with the end.

Evolution and climate change will remain unmolested in new science textbooks approved by the Collier County school board Monday night. The close 3-2 vote in favor of the textbooks came after a marathon five-hour textbook hearing and school board deliberation. For once, I was able to see everything firsthand instead of through a video screen or after-the-fact news articles. I had driven four hours across the state so that I could sit in the front row and document most of what happened through a constant flow of live tweets and a few summary Facebook posts. Hopefully, you’ve read my dispatches. The conversation that developed around them was educational.

The trip was worthwhile, but not because I was mere feet from the participants for several hours, seeing them in action. Rather, it was because it was a morale booster to be among the many science education and public school advocates who took the time to show up and be a part of the process. I was buoyed by the conversations I had with them before the hearing, during recess breaks, and after the final vote. They are passionate, thoughtful, and warm people who helped me see that Collier County isn’t actually a seething nest of creationists and climate change deniers. They’re being sorely misrepresented by the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, which is, unfortunately, headquartered on their home turf. When I arrived, I carried with me a deep concern that the creationist weed was going to multiply there. I didn’t need to worry. Collier County residents and parents had it under control.

I won’t go into the blow by blow of all the things each textbook protester said. You’ve probably heard it all before. And their arguments aren’t really important, anyway. I’ll just touch on the unique points and the overall summary.

Citizens Speak Up

First of all, a hearing officer presided over the hearing, but all school board members were also present. Immediately after the hearing, the school board convened a session to deliberate and vote. This is unlike the other counties where hearings were held. The other counties had a hearing, after which the hearing officer wrote a recommendation. At a later date, the school boards then convened and voted. In Collier County, the hearing office ran the hearing but wasn’t required to do anything once it was over.

After a quick orientation promptly at 3:30 by the hearing officer — experienced attorney Mr. Shannon McFee — the proceedings started with public comments. About 15 people had three minutes each to comment on the textbooks and the filed objections. Unlike many other public comment sessions I’ve seen, this one leaned heavily toward the pro-science side with 10 people supporting the books under scrutiny and only five supporting the objections. That was a good start. Once that was all over, the first hour of the hearing had slipped by.

Next, four people were scheduled to make their cases. However, one of the protesters, Melissa Pind, didn’t show up, leaving the other three to carry on.

Flaugh’s Doubt

Keith Flaugh, the managing director of Florida Citizens Alliance who I’ve written about many times here, was the first one out of the gate. But he spent an inordinate amount of time complaining about how the hearing was organized and lecturing the board members and the hearing officer about their roles and responsibilities. At one point the hearing officer ordered the timekeeper to stop the clock so that he could forcefully admonish Flaugh for his conduct. Flaugh complained several times about only being allowed 30 minutes to speak. His presentation was disorganized and Flaugh was obviously flustered throughout. The hearing officer even tried to help Flaugh calm down and focus despite Flaugh’s antagonism.

Flaugh relied heavily on the book Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen C. Meyer, holding it up and frequently quoting from it. The hearing officer asked Flaugh about any problems religious concepts might introduce into the science classroom and Flaugh claimed that religion wasn’t the foundation of his objections. Rather, he said that this was all about science versus science since so many reputable scientists didn’t accept evolution. (This is a blatant lie. Religious resources are all over his written objections filed with the school district and his multiple statements to the news media constantly talk about balancing evolution and creationism.)

The hearing officer also asked Flaugh what book would be a good one to use in science classrooms. Flaugh stated that it’s not his job to find the resources. His task is just to review the resources under consideration. It’s the district’s job to find appropriate resources or find ways to fix the books.

And, of course, Flaugh played the ace up his sleeve: Florida statutes require that textbooks be “accurate, objective, balanced, non-inflammatory.” Evolution-only textbooks violate that statute, he said.

Once his half hour (actually, it was more than a half hour) was up, school district curriculum and science specialists were afforded time to respond. They did the single best thing they could have done: they clearly stated that the textbooks must adhere to the state science standards. And they even took the time to explain the correct scientific definitions of the words theory and fact. It was a beautiful slam dunk.

Flaugh then returned to the podium for a quick rebuttal. He said that the textbooks violate state statute and that statute trumps standards. He also mentioned that there were a lot of problems found in textbooks in Texas and through the citizen review process many of the errors were fixed.

After a recess, board member Erika Donalds wanted to know why the hearing process was set up in the manner it was. Why is the hearing officer not tasked with submitting a recommendation to the school board like what was done in Martin County? The district lawyer responded that’s the way it is in the district policy. (I don’t believe this satisfied Donalds at all.)

Bingo!

The next presenter was Dr. Joseph Doyle. (I was told that Doyle is a “frequent flyer” at school board meetings, taking the opportunity to speak at nearly every one.) He started with a listing of his credentials and degrees, which literally took several minutes. He also mentioned that he served on a few of the textbook selection committees. (I was told that he didn’t give any of the textbooks a low rating while he was on the committees. And yet he turned around afterward to submit a long list of citizen review complaints.)

He started off by stating that the state standards are lousy. He then worked his way through a few of his complaints. For instance, he displayed a textbook page that discusses overpopulation. He claimed that the text could lead to a classroom conversation about abortion, euthanasia and other such topics. Like Flaugh, he brought up textbook errors being fixed in Texas. He went on to say that there are holes in the fossil record, common core is baloney, and the concept of “settled science” is a myth. (Dang! I should have made a bingo game to play during this hearing. I’m sure we could have easily filled up the whole bingo card.)

Once finished, school district personnel proceeded to shred his arguments, especially the more outrageous ones like the overpopulation example. They emphasized that the textbooks are not taught in isolation but are rather taught as a part of a whole curriculum.

Doyle’s rebuttal was to emphasize that the state standards are lousy. He went to say something about textbooks leading students into a new world order and that a globalist view is bad. (I briefly felt like I was at a Trump rally.)

Where Are the Old White Men?

Finally, meteorologist H. Michael Mogil got his time in the spotlight. He was clearly the best presenter of the three with a relaxed, personable delivery. He pointed out that the textbook review committees were only required to complete very simple ranking forms but he was required to fill out a much more detailed form for his citizen review objections. Like Doyle, Mogil gave several examples of errors and omissions he claimed where in the textbooks. But what stood out the most was his claim that there are too many minorities represented in the books’ pictures and not enough older white men. (I took a picture of his presentation slide so you could see that I’m not making this up.)

The district personnel did another fine job of dismantling the objections, actually showing on the room’s display screens some of the textbook pages and pointing out where information Mogil claimed was missing was actually located. They also said they had contacted the publisher and then read to the hearing officer and board members some of the publisher’s responses. And it should be noted that some errors that Mogil found appeared to be legitimate and the publisher was looking into them. But the district personnel found that the majority of Mogil’s complaints were editorial in nature and based on opinion rather than fact.

Intelligent Design is Not Religion

Finally, after hours of testimony, the hearing was over. The hearing officer declared his job done and he left. Now the hearing transitioned into a school board meeting. Donalds quickly made a motion to adopt the unopposed textbooks and discuss and vote on the opposed textbooks one at a time. Kelly Lichter seconded the motion. But the full board voted down the motion 3-2. Then a motion was made to discuss and vote to approve all of the textbooks at once. This then opened up board member deliberations.

Stephanie Lucarelli started it off by stating: “We will never find one book that everyone will agree on.” She had taken several pages of notes throughout the proceeding and pointed out that the three protesters had made some conflicting statements, which further supported her contention that a single perfect textbook would be impossible to find. She stated that creationism doesn’t belong in the science classroom and she briefly talked about the proper use of the word “theory” in science. (I was later told that she was a former science teacher.) She also took careful note of how many people had spoken during public comments and how many emails and conversations she’s had on this topic. She said that the majority support the proposed science textbooks.

Lichter was next. She claimed that the textbooks have a clear political slant to them, especially concerning climate change. The books have a political agenda that is being forced down the students’ throats.

Donalds complained about the hearing process, saying that the board never voted on that process and didn’t even vote to have the current meeting. She wants the “other side” of evolution taught. And she believes intelligent design is perfectly okay to teach in the science classroom. Her reasoning was that intelligent design is not a religion but rather instruction ABOUT a religion. (I don’t fully understand her point. I will need to watch the recording of the meeting again to see if I can figure it out.) She also mentioned that state standards should be considered the floor, not the ceiling. (This is a statement straight out of the playbook promoting a bill about education standards we saw in the last Florida legislative session.)

Erick Carter said that the courts have made it clear that creationism and intelligent design are unconstitutional. He has no desire to drag the school district into that mess. Chairman Roy Terry said that evolution is not in opposition to the Bible. He quoted from the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church: “We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world.”

Before the vote was finally called for, Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton explained that two textbooks had been pulled from consideration: an environmental science book and a meteorology book. She said that there are currently no courses offered in the district for those subjects, and even if there were, the copyright on the proposed environmental science book was already several years old.

And the vote was finally cast: three for textbook approval and two against. Up next? It’s guaranteed that Flaugh and his Alliance will file a lawsuit. To be continued …

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