Archive for January, 2008

Lafayette County goes all out

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

The Lafayette County school board didn’t want to be outdone by anyone. They actually called a special meeting for the purpose of doing an anti-evolution resolution.

The Lafayette County School Board unanimously adopted a resolution in protest of a proposed Florida Department of Education revision of the science portion of the Sunshine State Standards at a special meeting on Jan. 25.

The meeting, called for the purpose of voting on the resolution, lasted about 15 minutes.

The school district website is useless.

Darwin Day & FCS Annual Meeting

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Darwin Day is coming up! See the main Darwin Day website for background on this annual event.

Here in Florida there is a full day of Darwin in store for folks around Tallahassee Feb. 9 at FSU. There will be guest lectures and panel discussions by:

Sir Harry Kroto, Nobel Leaureate and Professor of Chemistry at FSU
Eugenia Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education
Michael Ruse, Professor of Philosophy at FSU
Frederick Davis, Associate Professor of History at FSU
Leo Sandon, Prefessor Emeritus of Religion, FSU
A Bucky Ball Workshop for children led by Sir Harry Kroto

Florida Citizens for Science will be holding our annual membership meeting during the Darwin Day events there at FSU. Our meeting will be held at 1 p.m. in a classroom near the celebration events.  FCS will have a table in the atrium where we can meet and talk to people.   The classroom number where the annual meeting will be held will be at this table in the morning.  We will have a petition there you can sign and hopefully a couple copies of the final new science standards.

The purpose of the meeting is to elect a board of directors and review the past year.  We will also discuss any continuing efforts needed to ensure acceptance by the State Board of Education of the new science standards and what direction FCS should go after that decision.

Another Darwin Day event is being held Feb. 9 at at Fern Forest Nature Center 201 S Lyons Rd., Coconut Creek Florida. There will be lectures, films, music, displays and of course BIRTHDAY CAKE.

There will be a Darwin Day lecture at Florida Community College, Jacksonville Feb. 6: Tracing Our Prehistoric Ancestors the DNA Way: An Anthropological Adventure by University of Florida’s Dr. Connie Mulligan.

Oh, and back at FSU on Feb. 8, members of FSU’s Union of Freethinking Students will be reading from Darwin’s works.

Did I miss any Florida events? If so, let me know in the comments.

Dropping the curriculum for FCAT

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

And now for some non-evolution science education news … the FCAT is so dang important that regular science curriculum is being dropped in some schools in order to do an intense FCAT prep. (The FCAT is the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. It’s a high stakes test that determines if kids can advance to the next grade in some cases, and if they can can graduate from High School. The results of the test also determine whether schools are rewarded or punished based on their students’ performances. More info here and here.)

When Priya Mistry returned from winter break, she expected to spend the next quarter in chemistry learning about Avogadro’s number and converting moles to mass. Instead, her teacher said he was throwing out the chemistry curriculum for the next seven weeks and teaching a review for the science FCAT.

The science FCAT is given in grades 5, 8 and 11. Students at all levels posted lackluster scores last year, but high schools were particularly hard hit. One reason, science teachers say, is that the test encompasses a broad range of science disciplines taught over several years.

Some advanced students taking honors classes who expected to ace the test have failed it because they haven’t seen earth and space science since eighth grade, Hicks said.

Most students need a review to do well on the test, said Nicole Dougherty, a science teacher at Santaluces High School. Her students do a daily warm-up drill modeled after FCAT questions. When they struggle with a specific tested topic, she spends more time on it.

But devoting seven weeks to review would be a “disservice” to her students who need to learn her courses’ intended content, she said.

“They don’t come to FCAT school, they come to high school to learn a topic,” she said. “If I was a teacher who only cared about scores, I could very well be wooed” to suspend the regular lessons. “We just feel like a good education for these kids will, in turn, give them good, positive scores on the FCAT.”

State’s lawmakers might rattle their sabers

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

I had already noted a warning issued by State Rep. Dan Gelber that legislators might take an interest in all the hoopla over evolution being in the new draft of the state science standards. Now a second lawmaker states essentially the same thing in the The Gradebook. The differences here are that this guy doesn’t quite see things in the same way as Gelber, and that he has an important position in the House concerning education.

Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka, says he has concerns about the proposed state standards himself.

“If it becomes a matter for legislative discussion, then I would have opinions that if it’s going to be presented, it’s presented … in a manner that is not potentially exclusive of any other theory,” including creationism, said Pickens, the powerful chair of the House Schools and Learning Council.

I think it’s time for everyone to pick up the phone and reach out to those lawmakers who represent you. Demand to know their stance on the issue of evolution. Then share with us what you find out. We may need to educate a few of these folks concerning basic science and biology.

But don’t forget that the main focus is on the state board of education right now. Those are the folks who will be deciding whether the new draft of the science standards will become official or not on Feb. 19. Check out our “Those not in favor of good science education, raise your hand” post for more information.

Nassau County passed their anti-evolution resolution

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

I called the Nassau County school district today during my lunch break. The superintendent’s secretary informed me that the anti-evolution resolution passed unanimously during last week’s school board meeting. [Previous post on this here.] That makes 10 county school boards that have passed such nonsense. Should we start placing bets on which county will be next?

Media Fact Sheet issued

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

A media fact sheet concerning some common fallacies reporters may encounter while covering the story of evolution in the state science standards was recently sent out. If you are a reporter or editor and didn’t get one, or if you’re just someone interested in what it says, please have a look. We do have a media page on our main website with useful links and contact information.
Also, if you are interested in seeing the draft of the science standards, head over to the Office of Mathematics and Science. The draft standards can be found there.

Show and tell time

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Here are a couple of things that have happened to me lately that I thought y’all might get a kick out of.

I don’t get personal mail at work. No letters, no junk mail, no packages, nothing. But yesterday a small package arrived for me. That’s weird, I thought. The first thing I did was look for the return address. There wasn’t one. That’s really weird, I thought. I have to admit to being a bit nervous as I slowly and carefully opened the box. To my relief, the only contents were a book and a typed note. The book was The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. The note was polite and well intentioned, but unsigned. My mysterious benefactor shouldn’t have wasted the money and effort on sending me the book. I’ve already read it along with several other books of the creationist/intelligent design stripe. I wasn’t impressed with Strobel’s book to say the least.

Creationist/ID apologetics books are just part of the game, and I can understand and live with their existence. But I have a problem with all of Strobel’s books that goes a step beyond just the apologetics. His promotional material plays up the whole “journalist investigates” angle, which I find nauseating. His books are nothing more than butt kissing sessions with his carefully selected lineup of creationist/ID cast of characters. His “I’m a skeptic” crap is nothing short of a blatant lie.

You want some real reporting in a book? Give Monkey Girl by Edward Humes a try. Humes does an outstanding job of examining all the angles of the Dover, Pa. ID trial. And a good way to wash away the awful sliminess I felt when I had read Strobel’s book was to read Carl Zimmer’s Evolution, The Triumph of an Idea.

That’s not my only story. I work for a Sheriff’s Office, and earlier this month one of our helicopters did an amazing emergency landing. Thankfully, no one was injured despite the chopper blowing a turbine in midair and losing power. The local newspaper reports on the incident, of course. Well, the paper’s website has one heck of a lively online community of folks who leave comments on each story. These comments conversations (which for some reason they refer to as blogs) can get explosive, silly and just plain nuts. The helicopter story was no different. Here’s one comment that I thought y’all would enjoy:

Have any of you that blogged last night on the Evolution VS God story that spoke about Brandon Haught from the Sheriff’s office, ever considered that maybe just maybe this happened because GOD WAS ANGRY? He also wanted to show his power by allowing these guys to walk away from this crash with minimal injury! DO YOU THINK IT WAS A LESSON?

Well, do ya, punk? Do ya think it was a lesson?

Heads-up: Anti-evolution heads south to Highlands County

Friday, January 25th, 2008

The Tampa Tribune (Highlands Today) reports that Highlands County school board members need to learn their science. This is the first county that’s not in north Florida to have this discussion. They haven’t done a resolution yet, but they want to:

SEBRING — Four of five members of the School Board of Highlands County oppose the proposed change in the state’s science standards that would present evolution as fact to students.

Norris, who is also a Lutheran minister, has stated that evolution should not be taught as fact and that students should be able to discuss creationism in class.

School Board Vice Chairman Andy Tuck said Thursday, “as a person of faith, I strongly oppose any study of evolution as fact at all. I’m purely in favor of it staying a theory and only a theory.

“I won’t support any evolution being taught as fact at all in any of our schools.”