Archive for the 'Instructional Materials bills ’17' Category

“It’s like a return to the Flat Earth Society.”

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

The creationist-enabling bills that have been coasting through our state legislature are attracting negative attention lately. We certainly appreciate that a couple of recent articles are raising awareness about these horrible bills. (See the Instructional Materials bill ’17 blog category for all the details about these bills.)

Orlando Sentinel: Florida wants to bolster book-banning in schools (by columnist Scott Maxwell)

Legislators are rapidly advancing a bill that would make it easier for parents and activists to challenge textbooks and reading assignments they find offensive, so schools can “discontinue use” of them.

Oh no, my child read something new! Something edgy! Something about evolution! Bring me a government censor ASAP!

It’s like a return to the Flat Earth Society.

Vice News: Climate Denial in Schools

Currently, six states have legislative measures pending or already on the books that would allow anti-science rhetoric, including the rejection of global warming, to seep its way into schools’ curricula. While these types of proposals have become fairly routine in certain states, some of the most recent crop have advanced farther than in the past.

And Florida has two bills pending aimed at letting local residents object to the use of certain instructional materials, such as textbooks that teach human-induced climate change, in public schools.

Instructional Materials bills: it’s not just about science

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

TextbooksWe’ve been working hard protesting against the passage of creationist-enabling bills in the state legislature that definitely will upset many school boards across the state when the reality of the bill’s purpose finally hits home. We’ve been highlighting the damage the Instructional Materials bills can have on science, obviously because our organization is all about science. But this bill will impact ALL subjects. Sun Sentinel columnist Gary Stein sheds some light on this: Johnny wants to read? Heavens, no:

Our Republican-led Legislature is trying to give prayer a heavier presence in school. And now they have two bills that would help parents object to books and classroom materials that may be, ahem, too liberal. If HB 989 and SB 1210 pass, residents could challenge books in school libraries and argue their views before “an unbiased and qualified hearing officer” who could decide if they are unsuitable.

Translation: Parents can bring complaints to conservative hearing officers who will help them get rid of the books they don’t want their kids seeing, instead of leaving the decision up to school boards which are often made up of liberal heathens.

I’m happy to see he also touches on science:

What if the book espouses evolution over creationism? Should one parent’s objection mean no child can read that book?

The whole idea of giving parents a bigger voice in complaining about books could be real time consuming. And hey, schools have plenty of extra time to worry about this kind of stuff, right?

My solution is simple. If parents don’t want their kids exposed to various ideas and books, let them home school the kid — and just let them read “acceptable” books.

Meanwhile, I used my speaking time at the Space Coast March for Science yesterday to tell the crowd of hundreds of science supporters about the threats science education faces. Here’s a copy of my remarks:

You are awesome. You marched here, standing up for science. But what are you going to do next? When today’s event is over, how will you keep on marching?

Do you want something to do? Good! I have something you can do.

You can help protect the future. In schools across this state are the future scientists and future voters and future leaders. I have news for you. You’re not getting any younger. One day they’ll be in charge. We need to make sure they’re prepared with a solid foundation of science knowledge.

But that’s difficult. Right now there are middle school students telling their teacher that the Earth is flat, and they mean it. Why? Because an NBA star said so.

It’s difficult because the Heartland Institute is mailing literature to science teachers nationwide that casts doubt on climate change in the hope some teachers will use the material in their classrooms.

And it’s difficult when our state legislature is considering a bill that will crack the foundation we’re trying to build if it becomes law. Creationists, climate change deniers and anti-vaccine nuts are gloating over how easily it’s gliding through.

The bill will mandate that school boards across the state take seriously the demands for equal time in textbooks and other instructional materials for anti-science nonsense. This bill changes the textbook selection process on the local level, allowing them to gum up the works and bully school boards into compromise.

So, do you want to do something when this march is over? Get out your phones. Do you have yours ready? Look up Florida Citizens for Science. Like Florida Citizens for Science on Facebook. Follow Florida Citizens for Science on Twitter. Bookmark the Florida Citizens for Science blog.

By the end of the day you will have forgotten all about me, but I won’t allow you to forget that you can keep on marching.

When you get home, do your homework. Don’t just believe what I’m telling you. See for yourself what this bill could do.

Keep on marching.

If you agree with our conclusions, then take the next step. Flood lawmakers with calls and emails to warn them about the dangers of this bill.

Keep on marching.

If that doesn’t work then tell our governor to veto the bill.

Keep on marching.

If that doesn’t work then school boards across this state are going to need your help against the creationists, the climate change deniers and the anti-vaccine nuts. Our teachers need you. Our students need you. The future of science needs you.

You’re here for a reason.

They need you to keep on marching.

It’s time to make a difference

Friday, April 21st, 2017

Take-Action-2-300x212Creationists, climate change deniers and anti-vaccine nuts are gloating. The instructional materials bill that will allow them to gum up the local textbook selection process and bully school boards into compromise passed its final House vote. Representatives approved it 94-25. Meanwhile, the final Senate committee to hear it said yes 16-0.

Now the full Senate will debate SB 1210 and shortly after that vote on it. At least we hope they’ll actually debate it and not rubber stamp it. But the only way that could happen is if you demand they do. Contact every senator you can.

Need some ammunition? Read through our comprehensive Instructional Materials bills ’17 blog category. Pay special attention to these revealing posts:

Check out the media coverage and op-eds on this bill:

Are you armed and ready to go now? Good. Get to work.

“How could this go sideways?”

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Thursday is probably our last realistic chance to put the brakes on, or at least challenge, the creationist and climate change denier’s dream bill: Instructional Materials bills SB 1210 and HB 989. (See our long list of blog posts on these bills in the Instructional Materials bill ’17 category.) The Senate Appropriation Committee is scheduled to hear their version of the bill then. It would be gratifying to see at least one senator point out the massive pitfalls in it. Even better, wouldn’t it be nice to pull off a miracle by having the bill voted down? The only way that will happen is if you contact the committee senators. I know, without a doubt, our opponents are working the phones. We need to be louder!

And the full House was expected to question and debate the bill today (Tuesday). But I believe that the meeting ran too long, pushing HB 989 to tomorrow’s calendar (Wednesday). It couldn’t hurt to contact lawmakers there to see if any of them will speak up for reality-based science education.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel has an article online tonight (to be published in the Wednesday print edition) about the bills: Parents may get new way to challenge school textbooks. Florida Citizens for Science is featured nicely.

The proposals have alarmed some science advocates, who fear the measures could lead to books that tackle controversial but required scientific topics, such as evolution, being removed or to those subjects being axed from class lessons.

In one of the affidavits, for example, a Martin County resident wrote about her objections to a textbook used in an Advanced Placement course. “Presentation of evolution as fact … The vast majority of Americans believe that the world and the beings living on it were created by God as revealed in the Bible,” wrote Lynda Daniel.

“If this bill becomes law, school boards will become inundated with demands that certain books be outright banned and that schools must discontinue using textbooks that don’t mesh with a vocal minority’s ideological views,” wrote Brandon Haught, a Volusia County high school science teacher and member of the group Florida Citizens for Science.

The bills are a “disaster” and would mean school boards would have to deal with “nonsense complaints” in a process that gives “protesters on a crusade nearly equal weight in the instructional materials selection processes as education and subject matter experts,” Haught said.

go wrongThe final quote in the story just makes me shake my head.

Ruth Melton, director of advocacy services for the Florida School Boards Association, said her group believes residents should be able to voice their views about school books. But it has some concerns about the bills, such as whether they will mean residents could continue to file protests long after school boards have had vote to adopt textbooks for use in upcoming classes.

“Have we created language here that just invites challenge and litigation?” she said. “How could this go sideways?”

We know exactly how. We’ve been trying to tell everyone for weeks now. Isn’t it about time someone listens?

“The truth is going to be different based on your own experience and your own bias”

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Seal_of_Collier_County,_FloridaAn article in today’s Naples Daily News reports on the textbook selection process going on right now in Collier County: Committee presents new textbooks, Collier school board to vote next month. Keep in mind that the Instructional Materials bills that we here at Florida Citizens for Science are fighting against in our state legislature were conceived in Collier County. There have been battles over textbooks there for several years, featuring “opposing ideological forces,” as the reporter puts it. The bill sponsor in the House is Byron Donalds, from Naples. And his wife, Erika Donalds, is the Collier County school board vice chairwoman.

With that background in mind, I think you can see why there was a reaction to something Mrs. Donalds said:

She applauded the residents who had read and reviewed hundreds of pages of textbooks “because they want to make sure that the truth is heard.”

Erika Donalds caused the audience to stir when she added, “The truth is going to be different based on your own experience and your own bias, and everyone has it, and that’s fine.”

What biases are Mrs. Donalds referring to? I think this guy nails it:

Bill Korson, a Naples resident who sat on the district’s U.S. history instructional materials committee, cautioned that many people hold opinions that are “based on unique interpretations of American history or unique belief systems.”

Korson brought up House Bill 989, an instructional materials bill introduced by state Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples, in February, that would allow all Collier residents such as Doyle to file formal objections “to arbitrarily question the appropriateness of content.”

“Deniers of global warming with no connection to the school district can file costly complaint after complaint,” Korson said. “Creationists who place cave dwellers with dinosaurs and rely on their beliefs with no scientific evidence can file complaints.”

House Bill 989 will be debated tomorrow (Tuesday) on the House floor. It would be nice if some lawmakers pressed Mr. Donalds about our very real, substantiated concerns. Please call your representative and demand they not rubber stamp this awful bill.

Update: The Senate version of the bill, SB 1210, will be considered during the April 20, Thursday, Appropriations Committee meeting. Start calling senators now. We can’t let our voices be ignored any more!

We’re educating the public and you can too

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Take-Action-2-300x212We’ve been working hard here at Florida Citizens for Science in an effort to stop the horrible instructional materials bills that are working their way through the state legislature. House Bill 989 and Senate Bill 1210 would give the green light to creationists and climate change deniers to harass school boards across the state about what’s in textbooks and other materials teachers use. I’m happy to report that we’re now making good headway in educating the public about the impending disaster that will result if these bills become law.

A team of us co-wrote an op-ed that’s going to be printed in Sunday’s Gainesville Sun. But the paper has already posted it online. It was great working with Jiri Hulcr and Andrea Lucky on this piece: Bill Seeks to Hijack Educational Standards.

Florida’s education standards were created cooperatively with input from Florida educators and parents, as well as business and community leaders. The instructional materials bill’s real goal has nothing to do with improving or enhancing the standards. Instead, it is a thinly veiled attempt by a special interest group to hijack Florida education and provide a new avenue to infuse their agenda into public schools.

I also got an op-ed published in the Tallahassee Democrat today: Anti-science education bill not benign.

If this bill becomes law, school boards will become inundated with demands that certain books be banned and that schools must discontinue using textbooks that don’t mesh with a vocal minority’s ideological views. This bill allows any county resident, not just parents, to force school boards to take seriously their unfounded claims that textbooks are biased and inaccurate.

This bill requires school boards to appoint hearing officers to consider nonsense complaints, in essence giving protestors on a crusade nearly equal weight in the instructional materials selection process as education and subject matter experts.

This bill is a disaster and your local school board can very likely be a casualty.

The Tallahassee Democrat also published an opposing op-ed that tries to claim that the bills are all about resisting the textbook industry monopoly. It’s a nonsensical, weak argument to say the least. Read for yourself: Florida school boards should control curriculum.

And the Lakeland Ledger published a letter by Florida Citizens for Science president Jonathan Smith: Make America Smart Again.

This is a deliberate attempt by those with a religious and/or political agenda to deliberately censor curriculum in Florida’s public schools.

We at Florida Citizens for Science strongly oppose this bill and are very concerned that it will essentially remove real learning and discourse from our Florida classrooms. If we want to make America great again, let’s start with making America smart again.

Now it’s your turn. Share our op-eds widely. Send them to the lawmakers in Tallahassee. We still have a chance to make a difference in the Senate since the bill will still have to be heard in one more committee meeting: Appropriations. And we can also try to convince representatives to argue against the bill when it is presented to the full House for questions and debate, which I believe will happen on Tuesday (18th). So, don’t be a spectator. Send emails, make phone calls and pay personal visits to as many lawmakers as you can. Together, we can make a difference.

We’re not alone

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

stand-up-for-science-180It’s wonderful to see that we’re not alone in our fight against the bad Instructional Materials bill working its way through the Florida legislature.

Several anti-censorship organizations worked together to send a letter to our state legislators, warning them about the bill. The signers include:

— Joan Bertin, Executive Director, National Coalition Against Censorship
— Charles Brownstein, Executive Director, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
— Millie Davis, Director Intellectual Freedom Center, National Council of Teachers of English
— Fatima Shaik, Co-Chair, Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee, PEN America
— Brandon Haught, Board Member, Florida Citizens for Science

The letters starts:

As a coalition of organizations with considerable experience defending challenged books in the public school system, we write to raise our concerns about H.B. 989: Instructional Materials for K-12 Public Education. The bill threatens to undermine the quality of education in Florida by potentially inviting and facilitating wasteful, expensive, and viewpoint-based challenges to curricular materials and by permitting local school boards to deviate from state-approved curricula in favor of subjectively defined “equivalent” or “better” standards. We hope you will keep our considerations in mind when reviewing this bill and urge you to vote against it.

There is also an online petition circulating (not started by us) that has rounded up more than 10,200 signers. We encourage you to participate but please don’t stop there. The petition can’t replace your direct contact with state lawmakers via phone, email, or visits.

Unless there’s a strong public outcry against right-wing extremists’ latest assault on science, many Florida students could soon be learning a curriculum shaped by political and religious dogma rather than academic standards.

Tell Florida legislators and Gov. Scott: Stand up for science in the classroom. Oppose S.B. 1210/H.B. 989.

The benign steamroller

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

steamrollerThe nightmare is getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. Today the Florida House Education committee considered an Instructional Materials bill that will force school districts across the state to take seriously creationist and climate change denier complaints about textbooks. School districts will be required to appoint “unbiased and qualified hearing officers” when any county resident, not just parents, protests about what’s in any instructional material.

The founders and promoters of this bill have given us mountains of evidence showing how they will use and abuse this bill should it become law. They want some form of creationism taught alongside evolution. They want references to human-caused climate change erased.

And yet the bill passed through the Education Committee on a 16-2 vote. And it happened with no debate and no substantial public comment during the meeting. I want to repeat that to make my point clear. There was no debate. There were no questions.

One issue that we’re realizing is that many lawmakers honestly believe the bill is harmless. One of our Florida Citizens for Science members had emailed a representative to warn about the bill’s dangers and got a reply:

Initially i had serious concerns about the concept of this bill. After hearing it in committee i learned how benign the bill is. So my question to you is, which part of the bill is dangerous?

We’re not getting our message through. It’s clear that none of the legislators have any idea where the bill originated, what the motivations behind it are, and what the consequences will be. During the email conversation, the representative went on to incorrectly claim that the state Department of Education makes the final decision about what what is adopted for use in classrooms. In other words, he doesn’t understand that local school districts make the final decisions concerning what goes into the classrooms and he further doesn’t understand that this bill will force those school districts to take seriously any county resident on an ideological crusade against those materials.

The lowest bar we can possibly set as we fight these bills is to have our valid and evidence-based arguments heard and acknowledged. So far, we’re failing to accomplish even that modest goal. Will you help us?

The last chance we have to be heard is in the final committee stop either bill, in the House or Senate, will have. It will be the Senate Appropriations Committee. The bill has not been scheduled for a meeting there yet. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting a head start on contacting the members. Tell them clearly and concisely that SB 1210 is NOT BENIGN. These talking points should help you, especially the links in the second point.

If our concerns aren’t at least brought up during that meeting, then we honestly have little chance of influencing this bill as it goes to the House and Senate floors for final votes.

If you have ever asked “what can I do to support science education,” this is your chance.

Call. Email. Visit. Repeat.