We're out there ...

We're on Twitter. Follow us at @flascience.

We're on Facebook, too. Join our Florida Citizens for Science group there.

Site Navigation

Science Education
How to join
About Us
Projects & Events
Our Blog
:: Return home  
Projects and Events
Get active in your local area and your state

Evolution in the Science Standards

Table of contents
Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7

Part 5: Last minute surprises galore

It seemed that opposition to evolution in the science standards was overwhelming. Even though the anti-evolution crowd had impressive networking capabilities and could stir up tremendous support from the general public, the pro-evolution side had some powerful players, too. Among the organizations that gave support were the National Academy of Sciences, the National Center for Science Education, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Florida Academy of Sciences, Americans United for Separation of Church & State, and Florida members of the Clergy Letter Project. Additionally, the standards' writers and framers didn't just walk away when the draft was done. They continued to advocate on the standards' behalf. The battle attracted the attention of the ACLU, which fired off a letter to the state Board of Education, cautioning against the unconstitutional endorsement of religion. [source] Nobel Prize winner Dr. Sir Harold Kroto, chaired professor of chemistry at Florida State University, made sure he cleared time in his busy schedule to help.

As the issue snowballed, FCS members worked tirelessly to stay out in front. Every single member was a volunteer and sacrificed untold time, effort, and money. President Joe Wolf worked hard to establish and maintain the growing network of support required to be successful. Board members Jonathan Smith, Joe Meert, Mary Bahr, Pete Dunkelberg, Brandon Haught, David Campbell, and Curtis Wolf all put their personal best into this effort on their own time and dime. Other FCS members wrote letters, made phone calls, and helped spread the word. The commitment to sustain so much volunteer effort for more than a year was awe-inspiring.

Much of the support for the science standards was only loosely organized. FCS wound up being the focal point of the coordination effort, but through its activities built an amazing foundation out of hundreds of individuals willing to lend a hand. A FCS petition effort gathered more than 1,700 signatures both on paper and on the Internet, and attracted many present and past Florida university presidents, prominent scientists, and even the director of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. [source]

Months of suspense finally were coming to an end as the state Board of Education vote neared. But more soap opera plot twists were still to come. A few players from earlier in this narrative reappeared. Cutting, the member of the standards' framing committee opposed to evolution submitted a minority report to the Board. In it he claimed that evolution was being taught "dogmatically" and he recommended several changes. [source] It should be noted, though, that Cutting submitted the so-called minority report on his own without support from any of the other standards' framers or writers.

Activist mother Kendall also reappeared and was instrumental in delivering a last minute surprise. Not satisfied with the 60-day comment period on the Internet or the five public hearings held around the state, Kendall dogged the state Board of Education members relentlessly to allow her and others to speak directly to them on the issue. The Board had made it clear that there would be no public input allowed during the February meeting, but the week beforehand that all changed. Reluctantly bowing to the pressure, the Board agreed to allow 20 people to speak for three minutes each. [source] Half could sign up to speak in favor of the draft standards and the other half in opposition. Those speakers would have to arrive the morning of the meeting and sign up for the slots first come, first served. This sent FCS and the anti-evolution side scrambling to strategize in just a few days who should speak and how they could get in there that morning to sign up first.

Adding to the stress in the final stretch was a surprising 11th-hour proposed change to the science standards. Department of Education officials were nervous that the Board would never approve the standards due to so much opposition to evolution. So they rushed together a possible compromise a mere week before the Feb. 19 meeting and officially announced the modified version on the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 15, right before a holiday weekend. Hoping to appease the anti-evolutionists, the idea was proposed to insert the phrase "scientific theory of" into the standards wherever evolution appeared and also in any other applicable spot so as not to single out evolution. [source] Thus, when the Board met, they had the option of approving the standards as originally written, not approving the standards at all, or approving the last-minute "scientific theory of" compromise version. Of course, the Board could do any number of other things if they wanted. This was their final decision to make, and so they could rewrite entire swaths of the standards at the meeting if the majority desired. But it was thought that the Board was likely to accept one of the three main options.

Story by Brandon Haught

[ Back to Part 4 / Forward to Part 6 ]
  :: Contact us at: bhaught@flascience.org
  :: Our links page
Be sure to visit our blog for regular updates on news, events and alerts.