It’s baaaaack! State Senator Stephen Wise is taking another stab at challenging the teaching of evolution in Florida schools with Senate Bill 1854 “Required Instruction in the Public Schools“. There are other non-science-related items in the bill, but the part that targets evolution reads:
1003.42 Required instruction.—
(2) Members of the instructional staff of the public schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the district school board, shall teach efficiently and faithfully, using the books and materials required to that meet the highest standards for professionalism and historic accuracy, following the prescribed courses of study, and employing approved methods of instruction, the following:
(a) A thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.
Sen. Wise had tried this before. Here is a whole string of posts I did about a bill (SB 2396) back in 2009. Of particular significance was a story in the Florida Times Union back then that featured Sen. Wise saying he wanted to require the teaching of intelligent design. Sen. Wise also made my jaw drop when he said during a radio interview “if man came from apes, then why are there still apes?” The 2009 bill that was eventually filed didn’t mention intelligent design despite his stated intentions, oddly enough. The bill eventually died without any major action. He was also a co-sponsor of antievolution legislation back in 2008.
As I mentioned above, there are other elements of this bill; they address “The historical context in which the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed” and “A character-development program in kindergarten through grade 12 the elementary schools, similar to Character First or Character Counts, which is secular in nature. The program must emphasize the core values of honesty, virtue, moral courage, [etc.]”
It’s worth noting that there are two other “character-development” bills that state these same things without any mention of evolution.
Florida Citizens will track this bill and any others that pop up. In the meantime, contact legislators, urge your friends to contact legislators, travel to Tallahassee and lobby in person if possible, or find out when your legislators are back home and meet with them in their districts. Letters to the editor and op-eds are always useful, too. Don’t send hate mail to Sen. Wise. That isn’t helpful and only gives him and his allies ammunition. You can use a press release I had issued in 2009 for ideas on what to write or say. Keep in mind that if no one speaks up or no one takes action against this bill, we could be the next Louisiana. That state had passed a similar bill that was then signed into law by the governor! So, don’t think it can’t happen in Florida.