Archive for June, 2007

Mrs. Hovind sentenced

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Wife of Dr. Dino, Jo Hovind, was sentenced to a year in federal prison and has to pay $8,000. 

Her husband, founder of Creation Science Evangelism and Pensacola’s defunct Dinosaur Adventure Land, was found guilty in November of 58 federal counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for tax fraud and ordered to pay $640,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

The theme park used dinosaur display to show visitors his view that humans and dinosaurs coexisted and that evolution did not occur.

FCAT scores in the morning

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

School A-F grades are expected to be released tomorrow (Friday) morning. As has been mentioned in every doggone FCAT news story about school grades, the expectations are low because of the science FCAT counting for the first time.

Learning something new: meat-flavored water

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “learning something new every day” post. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share some meat-flavored water with you. Well, not with you, but rather with your dog. The day has now come for your dog to have a sports drink!

GAINESVILLE – A Gainesville startup company is marketing beef- and tuna-flavored sports drinks formulated in part by the inventors of Gatorade.

BioGalaxy Inc. is selling Animactive as a pet hydration drink. Flavors include ahi tuna, filet mignon, chicken kiev and natural.

Much like sports drinks for humans, Animactive is touted for performance enhancement and hydration that lasts longer than water. That could come in handy for animal shelters, police dogs and horses and rescue animals in high-stress situations, according to the company.

The website is “coming soon.”

In other news, the international space station has space for rent, or it will, sorta kinda. Apparently, there will be unused sections of the station when it is finally completed, and that space can be used by other government agencies besides NASA, and even private companies can take advantage of the offer. The catch, though, is that interested parties need to thumb a ride to the station. Gas, grass or a** … no one rides for free.

Presidential candidate Sen. Brownback and professor Jerry Coyne have dueling guest newspaper columns on the subject of evolution vs. creationism. I don’t know where Brownback is getting his science information, but I think he just needs to shut up and move on. He’s not doing himself any favors by keeping this issue alive.

Yecke Information Challenged

Monday, June 25th, 2007

— Updated: Story about Yecke in the St. Petersburg Times. —

The following press release has been sent out to Florida media:

Internet Company Tries to Sanitize Old Information about Yecke

Dr. Cheri Pierson Yecke, K-12 chancellor for Florida’s Department of Education, has apparently hired a company called ReputationDefender to search the Internet for information about her and, on her behalf, challenge items she disputes. Florida Citizens for Science member Dr. Wesley Elsberry recently received an e-mail from the organization asking him to remove or modify a quote he has on his personal website about Yecke. The quote was taken from a Minnesota newspaper that reported Yecke specifically had included a go-ahead to schools in that state to incorporate “intelligent design” into science benchmarks in 2003. Yecke was the Minnesota Commissioner of Education at that time.

The quote a ReputationDefender representative says Yecke disputes is: “Yecke had explained in her advance publicity for the hearings that schools could include the concept of “intelligent design” in teaching how the world came to be.”

Elsberry reports that the ReputationDefender representative, “Dave S.”, admits Yecke has declined to provide the documents that would demonstrate the truth – or falsity – of her complaint. Elsberry also says that the reporter who wrote the original newspaper story has never received any complaint from Yecke concerning the accuracy of his 3-year-old article.

During her time in Minnesota, Yecke was entangled in a controversy over the teaching of evolution and supposed alternative theories in public schools when the state was revamping science standards.

Elsberry is a wildlife biologist who had worked for the National Center for Science Education, and is currently on a one-year leave of absence to be a Visiting Research Associate in the Lyman Briggs School of Science, Michigan State University. Elsberry had helped found Florida Citizens for Science and is still an active member and advisor.

The original newspaper article is at:
http://www.ecm-inc.com/news/princeton/2003/October/9standards.html
Elsberry’s web page containing the disputed quote is at:
http://austringer.net/wp/?p=141

Balanced presentation policy?

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

The Alachua County School Board met recently and judging from this story, it was a fightin’ affair from start to finish. All sorts of people were irritated about all sorts of things. Near the end of the story is an interesting subject sparked by an audience member’s question.

Another audience member stood up and asked about a policy regarding the teaching of controversial issues, asking whether a teacher who wanted to teach evolution in a class would also have to teach intelligent design.

The proposed policy states that when presenting a controversial issue “the teacher shall present all sides of the question without bias or prejudice and shall permit each student to arrive at his/her own conclusions.”

Board Chairwoman Ginger Childs reiterated that the board hopes all controversial issues will be presented with a “fair and legitimate and a balanced presentation.”

“We are trying not to mandate to teachers what they can and cannot teach,” Childs said.

Childs tried to dodge a bullet there, but instead stepped right into the line of fire. Advocates for inserting intelligent design love those little code words of “both sides,” “fair,” and “balanced presentation.” Not that there is anything wrong with being fair, but when evolution has overwhelming support from the scientific community and intelligent design has, well, none, what is there to be “fair” about?

This proposed policy on controversial issues has a foul stench to it. What prompted it? Who proposed it? Why was it brought up?

If you’re in Alachua County, could you please help us get to the bottom of this?

Update …

Here is the text of the policy that I believe is in question found in this document.

The responsibility and right of an instructional staff member to present information of a controversial nature is hereby recognized. The teacher shall not present controversial material or issues which are not directly or closely related to the subject area being taught. In presenting controversial materials on an issue, the teacher shall present all sides of the question without bias or prejudice and shall permit each student to arrive at his / her own conclusions.

I don’t know if this is a “new” policy as mentioned in the story or an already existing policy. I see notes in the document that mention having been adopted in 1999, but I don’t see a difference in the document and the wording mentioned in the newspaper story.

I’m trying to track down what exactly is going on before getting too alarmed. Nonetheless, it is interesting that some unnamed person decided to bring up evolution and intelligent design during the meeting.

Update II …

Ahh, I found the proposed new policy by going through the school board’s agenda for that meeting reported on in the newspaper. The new policy (#2240) does go into quite a bit more depth than the old (quoted in my previous update).

The Board believes that the consideration of controversial issues has a legitimate place in the instructional program of the schools.

For purposes of this policy, a controversial issue is a topic on which opposing points of view have been promulgated by responsible opinion or likely to arouse both support and opposition in the community.

The responsibility and right of an instructional staff member to present information of a controversial nature is hereby recognized. The teacher shall not present controversial material or issues which are not directly or closely related to the subject area being taught. In presenting controversial materials on an issue, the teacher shall present all sides of the question without bias or prejudice and shall permit each student to arrive at his/her own conclusions.

Controversial issues may not be initiated by a source outside the schools unless prior approval has been given by the principal.

The Board recognizes that a course of study or certain instructional materials may contain content and/or activities that some parents find objectionable. If after careful, personal review of the program lessons and/or materials, a parent indicates to the school that either the content or activities conflicts with his/her religious beliefs or value system, the school will consider a written request for his/her child to be excused from a particular class for specified reasons. The student, however, will not be excused from participating in the course and will be provided alternate learning activities during times of such parent requested absences.

The Superintendent shall develop administrative procedures for dealing with controversial issues and with parental concerns about program content or the use of particular materials. Furthermore, the Superintendent shall prepare administrative procedures detailing the manner in which students and parents will be adequately informed each year regarding their right to inspect instructional materials and the procedure for completing such an inspection.

Your thoughts?

New Florida Commissioner of Education search

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

The search for Florida’s next Commissioner of Education is on. You can check up on the search status and who has applied here. The site only recently went up, so no applicants are listed yet. You can also see the search schedule here.

Minnesota information relevant to Florida antievolution

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Wesley Elsberry is looking for some Minnesota Department of Education information from 2003. Depending on what he digs up, he might find it to be connected to activity here in Florida today. Please help him out if you can.

Whitney Laboratory seeking volunteers

Friday, June 15th, 2007

I got the following via e-mail today. It sounds like a fun volunteer opportunity.

The field of dreams needs you

Volunteers have never been more in demand at the Lab. The functional and beautiful Center for Marine Studies affirms the line from the movie, “If you build it, they will come.” A great number of teachers and home schoolers are requesting a variety of educational assistance in the marine sciences.

Docents are needed to handle the doubling of programs at the pre-school and elementary levels that are scheduled to begin. In the fall, middle school and high school students will be added to the offerings. Docents need no prior science training and come from all walks of life. They receive an orientation from Whitney faculty and on-the-job training with experienced docents. If you would like to be a docent or serve in a different volunteer capacity at the Center, administrative or other, call Education Coordinator Jessica Roberts-Misterly at 461-4014 or email jessica(at)whitney.ufl.edu.

Website is here: Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience