Florida Citizens for Science Press Release:
“Critical Analysis” bill harmful to Florida science education.
Florida Citizens for Science opposes Senator Stephen Wise’s recently filed bill — SB 1854, Required Instruction in the Public Schools — as it is clearly unnecessary, harmful to science education, and sends a negative message to science-based industries that would otherwise consider setting up shop in our state.
This bill is a waste of our lawmakers’ precious time. Sen. Wise’s bill directs schools to give “a thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” If taken at face value, the “critical analysis” that Sen. Wise is calling for is already a significant part of our state’s new state science standards that were approved by the State Board of Education in 2008. Benchmarks SC.912.N.1.3 and SC.912.L.15.1 already require critical analysis and logical thinking in all of the sciences. However, Sen. Wise wants to single out one subject for special attention out of the multitude of sciences taught: evolution. That alone sends a clear signal that this bill has ulterior motives.
Sen. Wise was quoted in the news when he introduced a similar bill in 2009, saying that he wanted schools to teach the idea of “intelligent design” in biology classes alongside evolution (The Florida Times-Union; Feb. 8, 2009; “Wise to introduce bill on intelligent design“). A federal court case decided in 2005 (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District) left no doubt that the idea of intelligent design was solidly grounded in a specific religious ideology. That court case loss was costly for the school district involved, and tore the community apart. No Florida school district can afford to fall into such a draining legal pit! A recent article in the Tampa Tribune (March 13, 2011; “Legislator’s challenge to evolution has some alarmed“) made it clear that a lawsuit could be a consequence of Sen. Wise’s bill: “There would be litigation were some county school district to be silly enough to be enticed by the legislation to teach religion instead of science.” This would be an awful waste of critical resources that should go to educating our children.
It is noteworthy that Sen. Wise now refuses to state what his proposed critical analysis would look like. In the same March 13 Tampa Tribune article, he was vague, proposing only something he called “non-evolution” and “a theory of whatever.” Sen. Wise needs to be honest and forthright. What kind of “critical analysis” is he really wanting?
Florida’s leaders have been working for years to bring bio-tech industries to our state. Many scientists, especially biologists, will consider this bill to be an attack on an established, core scientific principle. It will be clear to these businesses that Florida leaders don’t value science education, and the resulting stigma can only drive away the very industries we are trying to attract. These companies need a well-educated workforce, and Sen. Wise’s bill would be in opposition to that need.
Florida Citizens for Science encourages all of our state’s lawmakers to send a clear message that sound science education is important to our state. Vote no on SB 1854!