Science Standards revision schedule

December 3rd, 2014 by Brandon Haught

Instandards picformation about the Florida science standards revision process is available at this FloridaSTEM website. There is a video and some downloadable documents there.

The important future fireworks dates to mark on your calendars:

  • June 2016 — draft of standards released for public input.
  • November 2016 — state board of education considers approval.

It would seem that the sequence of planned events (selection of framers, selection of writers, writers developing draft standards, etc.) makes it clear that the “national” Next Generation Science Standards are not being seriously considered for adoption here in Florida.

Dr. Dino’s new trial in January

December 2nd, 2014 by Brandon Haught

News update: Trial for ‘Dr. Dino’ moved to January

A Pensacola evangelist accused of attempting to block government sales of his forfeited property will stand trial in January.

Kent Hovind, known as “Doctor Dino” for his views on creation and a biblical/dinosaur-themed amusement park, originally was scheduled to face a federal jury Monday on multiple counts of fraud. His trial was rescheduled to Jan. 5 so Hovind could be tried simultaneously with his co-defendant, Paul John Hansen.

Article in Florida Scientist journal

December 1st, 2014 by Brandon Haught

The latest issue of the Florida Academy of Sciences‘ journal, Florida Scientist, was recently published and it was a special edition highlighting “citizen science programs in Florida.” I was invited to write an article about Florida Citizens for Science, which appears starting on page 230. Unfortunately, the journal doesn’t have any significant Internet presence, so I can’t link to anything useful. But if you are a member of the Florida Academy, look for my article!

Carl Sagan Day

November 8th, 2014 by Jonathan Smith

This weekend and next weekend there are multiple events taking place throughout the state to celebrate Carl Sagan Day   Florida Citizens for Science are to be one of the sponsors at an event in Clearwater FL on Saturday 15th of November. The event is twofold, so as to be an extension of Skepticamp 2014 which was sold out last month and Carl Sagan Day. FCS President Jonathan Smith will be speaking on the subject of Astrobiology (the search for life on other Planets and Moons) and will be joined by several other speakers talking about astronomy. This event not only allows you to listen to the speakers, but actively participate in the lectures.

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.