Archive for September, 2017

“Pure and unadulterated false propaganda”

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

It’s been mighty quiet out there, folks. A month ago I told you that the Florida Department of Education launched their instructional materials review for science and they were accepting applications for reviewers. The response from all of you was awesome and I’m confident several of you applied. So, now I’m following up. Have any of you been accepted? Did you get a “no thanks” response? The DoE hasn’t issued any announcements or updated their website in the past month. Of course, these processes take time, but we can’t let the silence lull us into forgetting. Please report in if you have any information.

And let’s also not forget that Marion County isn’t bothering with the state review process, instead choosing to do it all themselves. This notice was recently published in the Ocala Star Banner:

Textbook committee
Marion County Public Schools is looking for five people for a textbook adoption committee that will review and approve instructional material for 17 courses for the next school year. Committee members must commit to at least 10 hours of work time, per course, mandatory overview and final vote meetings, and must attend one of two training sessions Oct. 4. Applications are on marionschools.net and can be submitted by emailing crystal.cizmar@marion.k12.fl.us by 11:59 p.m. Saturday. Call 867-2121.

And let’s not forget why paying attention to textbook reviews is important. The Florida Citizens’ Alliance posted last weekend a couple of their reviews of history textbooks in Brevard County. Of interest to us science advocates is their disdain for mentions of man-made climate change. For example:

This statement leads the child to believe that man made global warming is a scientific fact, when it is not. Man made global warming is a hoax, based only on computer models and false data, and is an injustice to the child, by not teaching scientific fact. It is pure and unadulterated false propaganda.
[…]
The most disturbing aspect is that children are propagandized and being led to believe a falsehood; that man is more powerful than the forces of nature, and therefore can control earth’s climate. Completely ignored is the fact that global warming and cooling are cyclical, occurring for million of years, and man has no effect on that cycle. Ignored is the fact that man made global warming is based on computer models and not the scientific method.

Stay alert, everyone!

Marion County to review and approve textbooks on their own

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

There’s a new wrinkle in the Florida instructional materials world. We already know that the Florida Department of Education is in the process of reviewing and approving new science textbooks that school districts could then pick from to purchase for their schools. We already know that two new laws could dramatically impact how textbooks are challenged by Florida citizens and we know that certain science topics could be in the cross hairs.

But here’s the new twist that will require our vigilance: Marion County has decided to review and select textbooks completely on their own.

The way textbook selections have worked for several years now is that the state Department of Education solicits for bids from textbook publishers. Then the DoE assembles committees to review all of the submissions and choose the best ones that align with the Florida state education standards to be on the state’s approved list. (It needs to be noted that those committees have changed. It used to be that the committees were comprised of people from all across the state. However, in 2011 the committees were reduced to just three “subject matter experts.” See our old posts about this: Textbook selection process to change? and New textbook selection process now law.) Finally, school districts choose from the approved list the materials they want to buy for their schools.

But in 2013 a state law was passed that allowed school districts to review instructional materials on their own and not have to choose from the state’s approved list. In the years since, no school district has chosen that route primarily due to the time and expense it would take.

But now Marion County is taking the plunge. Here is a news story about it: Local schools, not state, will select textbooks. But the story doesn’t have much original reporting. It’s just a rewrite of the school district’s press release: Parents and Teachers: Choose Textbooks for Next School Year.

Why is this concerning?

Yes, some of my points are old news, but they show a potential trend. If you’re in Marion County, please consider signing up to be on a textbook committee. And it would be helpful to know where the idea for Marion County to do its own textbook review came from. Who suggested it and what was the justification for approving it?

It can’t be done without you

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

What can you do? How can you help? How can you make a difference?

I’m getting a lot of inquiries from folks wanting direction. They have the interest and the desire to pitch in but they’re not sure where to put that energy. With that in mind, I’ve created a to-do list. You can pick a whole bunch of things to do or you can just choose the thing or two that your busy schedule allows. But the main thing is that you find a way to participate that works best for you. Even if you’re doing a small part to help, you’re at least doing something.

What are the issues we’re facing?

What can you do? Here’s a to-do list to choose from:

  • You’ve reading this because you heard about at least one of the issues mentioned above. How did you hear about it? Now think about the many other people who haven’t heard about it. It’s time to spread the word. Post on social media. Bring it up in conversations with friends, colleagues and family. Ask any organizations you’re a member of to consider advocating for one of the issues. Write letters to the editor. The bottom line is to spread the word. This becomes a numbers game. If you tell 50 people, then maybe five will be interested and maybe one or two will be very active. But it all starts with you.
  • We posted about the start of the state’s science instructional materials review and approval process. Sign up if you have the qualifications.
  • The real fireworks will happen over instructional materials at the school district level. Contact your local school district. Let them know you are willing to help them review and select science instructional materials when the time comes. Let them know you’ll be willing to serve as the hearing officer if any complaints come forward. Make sure they know who you are and that you are there to help, not cause problems.
  • Become familiar with your school district. When are the school board meetings? Can you access the school board meeting agenda online or somewhere else before meetings? Can you access the meeting minutes after the meetings? Are the meetings recorded? Are they broadcast live? Who are the school board members? Have any of them ever expressed anti-science sentiments or pro-science comments?
  • Become familiar with your local residents. Are there any who frequently complain to the school board who might now use the new instructional materials law to amplify their complaints? Are there any organized groups who have or possibly will be loud? (Check this list on the Florida Citizens’ Alliance website and this list, too. Are any of those groups or individuals in your area?)
  • The new instructional materials law was created and pushed by a group called Florida Citizens’ Alliance. They were dominant during the last state legislative session. They were a constant presence in Tallahassee, meeting lawmakers face to face and speaking at every relevant hearing. We need to counter-balance that influence. Do you have any contacts with state lawmakers? Can you contact your local representatives now to ask them questions and express your concerns while they’re in your home district (as opposed to sealed up in Tallahassee when the legislature is in session)?
  • We here at Florida Citizens for Science are an all-volunteer force. None of us are working on this full time. That means we need more people willing to stand up and take on a role. All of the above ideas are wonderful and could make an impact, but they’ll be even more powerful if they’re coordinated and tracked. We have an idea for a “county watch” committee that will collect and sort a lot of the above information. Then we can better match people up with others in their area, keep track of activities in potential hot spots, and better deploy resources without wasted duplication of effort. But all of that takes committed people willing to invest the time and energy.
  • In conjunction with any of the above to-do items is doing your homework. Our blog is jam-packed with lots of valuable information. Read it. If you would like to help index all of that information for better ease of use, then do it and send me what you’ve compiled. In other words, if you see something that can be improved to make our work more efficient, then please roll up your sleeves and pitch in. I would love to make the blog more user friendly for quick research but I don’t have the time to do it. Do you?

We’ll add to this list as more ideas pop up. No, it’s not comprehensive. That’s why we need you. Help us to help our schools.