It’s Just Not Happening

October 20th, 2014 by Jonathan Smith

I know what I’m about to offer can in no way be considered anything close to scientifically accurate, but I do feel that it is at worse a fair example of what is going on in many of  Florida’s school districts.

As some of you know, last year I started asking 11/12 k students if they were, or had been, studying evolution in their biology classes and quizzed them on a few basic questions on TOE (which 80% of the students failed to answer). I also began talking to the same grade science teachers to see if they covered TOE in their classes.

Since August last year I have spoken to well over 100 students and 30 teachers from 19 different high schools, covering four counties. Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk and Hardee. I have documented the results, although I promised anonymity, particularly to the teachers.

As I said, I’m no statistician, but basically just over 72% of those students either covered TOE briefly or not at all and out of the teachers I questioned, 58% admitted they hardly taught the subject or ignored it completely. Ninety percent of the teachers said they are just trying to avoid conflicts with students or parents. Polk and Hardee had the worse numbers, then Pasco, with Hillsborough being the best. I’m sure if this research was conducted on a state level, we would find similar results, some counties faring better than others. However, considering that Evolution is a large part of the biology science standards, these findings are appalling. All districts should follow the standards without exception and this is just not happening.

You can have all the NGSS you want, but if the FDOE are not following up with any monitoring of the standards, district by district, they mean little or nothing.

Interesting endorsement

October 4th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

The Tampa Bay Times made an interesting endorsement recently. Times recommends: Peluso for Pinellas School Board

Peluso, 58, made an unfortunate misstep in August when twice in one day at public forums he professed support for teaching creationism alongside evolution, which would be a violation of the state’s science standards. The next day, Peluso clarified he supported teaching creationism only as part of a world religion course. That’s good, as the district has more pressing challenges than a culture war over widely accepted science.

Nice review of Going Ape

October 4th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

The Reports of the National Center for Science Education published a nice review of Going Ape!

Evolution in the Sunshine State

“Brandon Haught, formerly a Marine Corps combat correspondent and currently public information officer with the Volusia County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office, has produced a very well-researched, well-written book on the history of the conflicts over evolution in the curriculum of public schools in Florida.”
[...]
“In summary, Going Ape is informative, helping to put the nationwide exploits of the anti-evolutionists in perspective, and, as a bonus, it is enjoyable to read—kudos to the author. Haught closes his narrative with ‘It’s a certainty that someone’s passions will spark the next battle. My fingers are hovering over the keyboard, ready to chronicle it. I doubt I have long to wait’ (page 234). I look forward to reading his next contribution.”

Evolution and science stuff in Florida news

September 21st, 2014 by Brandon Haught

Some interesting evolution and science related stuff in Florida news lately …

John Thrasher endures testy forum at FSU

College of Communication professor Andy Opel pressed Thrasher on climate change, asking him if he believed it is real. “Do you accept the science behind it,” Opel said.

Like Gov. Rick Scott, whose reelection campaign Thrasher co-chairs, Thrasher declined to give a specific response. At that point, two students in the front row appeared to Thrasher to be laughing at his answer.

The next person to pose a question, law professor Mark Seidenfeld, asked Thrasher if he believed in evolution.

“I have a great faith in my life that has guided me in my life in a lot of things I believe in,” Thrasher said.

Hinson: ‘Because he’s flippin’ Bill Nye, that’s why’

After Nye’s talk was done, he received a rousing standing ovation. After a minute or so, he returned to the stage and fielded a few questions from students in the audience. That’s when things got real good, real fast.

First question: “What would you think of a university president at a major university who doesn’t believe in evolution?”

It was a direct reference to Florida Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine), a political bigwig who is aggressively trying to muscle his way into the president’s office at Florida State. Thrasher, who is not exactly a free-thinking intellectual with a lenghty list of academic credentials, has dodged questions about climate change and whether or not he believes Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory.

Nye answered with: “I’m heartbroken, I guess.”

A woman in the audience instantly shouted: “So are we.”

East Hillsborough School Board race has conservative focus

There is a truism about eastern Hillsborough County: When it comes to politics, you can’t tack too far to the right.

That adage is being tested this fall as Terry Kemple, possibly Hillsborough’s best-known Christian conservative activist, makes his third run for the School Board.

He ran districtwide the first two times and lost, although he notes that in 2012 he would have prevailed if the votes were confined to District 4.

This time he is running in the land of the Bell Shoals Baptist superchurch and former state Sen. Ronda Storms, a district where the pro-family, anti-Obamacare Stacy White defeated two better-funded candidates in the August primary for a likely spot on the County Commission.

But Kemple, 68, takes it up a notch. He’s spoken out against gay rights and Muslim advocacy. He called it a travesty that the schools teach evolution as fact. And he isn’t just against the Common Core standards; he accused the state of trying to defraud the public on the issue.

Switching careers

September 14th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

Did you know that I recently switched careers, becoming a high school biology teacher? Now you know.

Daytona Beach News Journal: Former Volusia sheriff’s spokesman pursues passion into classroom

Haught, 44, recently left his post as the assistant public information officer at the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to teach biology at University High School in Orange City. He swapped snoopy reporters for sleepy students. Police reports for lab reports. Arrest records for attendance records.

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Skepticamp 2014

September 14th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

Florida Citizens for Science president Jonathan Smith and I enjoyed talking with the very lively and engaged crowd at Skepticamp 2014 in Tampa today. I took them on a brief time travel tour, bouncing from events in the 1920s to events in the present. I wanted to emphasize how anti-evolution activists, groups and legislation from then and now are amazing alike. We then tackled the question of whether there is any way to break this seemingly never ending cycle of anti-evolution activism. Jonathan talked about how evolution plays a significant role in your everyday life, from man’s best friend to what you eat. Thank you very much to the event organizers for having us!

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Oh, by the way …

August 18th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

It’s been an insanely busy week or so for me. I’ve changed careers. Seriously. I was a spokesman for a law enforcement agency. Now I’m a biology teacher. Yes, you read that right. I had my first day of school today. I’ll try to post a bit more about the sudden change, but for now you can find a snippet at my author blog. And here is my reflection on my first day:

I survived my first day as a high school biology teacher. Wow, it was a blur. That’s about all I can say. I had some minor adjustments to make after the first few periods when I finished what I planned to do with way too much time left before the bell. By about third period I found a way to fill the time and the rest of the day went about as smooth as can be expected. Way too many zombies were staring off into space and yawning and trying to snooze, but nearly everyone perked up when I told them about some of my Marine Corps and Sheriff’s Office experiences. The rest of the week should be interesting. There are assemblies and fire drills galore already on the schedule starting tomorrow. Adapt and overcome.

“I stand by that decision”

August 14th, 2014 by Brandon Haught

Pinellas County school board candidate Ken Peluso was briefly on the hot seat when he said he believed that creationism and evolution should be taught together so that students could “draw their own conclusions.” He later told the Tampa Bay Times that he reversed that comment, claiming that the question caught him off guard.

The newspaper’s Gradebook blog has now noted that Peluso was at a separate event later on the day he made that creationism comment and he verified his stance. (“North Pinellas 9/12″ forum on Aug 7, 2014.)