There are two new laws here in Florida that will potentially impact science education in detrimental ways. I’m, of course, talking about the Instructional Materials law and the Religious Expression in Schools law. Florida Citizens for Science has been in the trenches fighting these harmful laws for quite a while. However, with the governor’s signature they’re in full effect as laws as of July 1.
So, now what? Tell people about them! That’s the phase we’re in now.
We’ve certainly been very loud nonstop for several days and it’s been amazingly effective. Followers on social media have skyrocketed and requests to join Florida Citizens for Science are flooding our email. The majority of that response has come from the great media coverage we’ve received lately. And more stories are coming.
The more informed people we have across the state, the greater the chances of keeping ideological crusaders from poisoning quality science education. Citizens need to be aware of what’s going on at their school board meetings. Citizens need to participate in local textbook selection committees. Citizens need to be ACTIVE! And the first step in accomplishing these things is making citizens aware of the new laws. Will you help us?
Here’s a sample of the laws’ media coverage:
The Washington Post published New Florida law lets any resident challenge what’s taught in science classes:
But Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Council (sic) for Science Education, said that affidavits filed by supporters of the bill suggest that science instruction will be a focus of challenges. One affidavit from a Collier County resident complained that evolution and global warming were taught as “reality.” Another criticized her child’s sixth-grade science curriculum, writing that “the two main theories on the origin of man are the theory of evolution and creationism,” and that her daughter had only been taught about evolution.
“It’s just the candor with which the backers of the bill have been saying, ‘Yeah, we’re going to go after evolution, we’re going to go after climate change,'” that has him worried, Branch said.
Forbes published Two Sad Ironies In Florida Passing Its ‘Anti-Science’ Law:
As I reflect on this new Florida law, it is almost a slap in the face to a state that so many associate with scientific greatness and the space program. It is also now hosts several private enterprises like Space X, which are pushing the boundaries of science and technology. These companies will need a scientifically literate workforce not students spewing fringe theories. This Florida law sends a dangerous message about sound science and would make me nervous if I was a parent sending a child into this type of situation.
CNN published Now anyone in Florida can challenge what’s taught in schools:
Florida Citizens for Science, a group of parents and teachers promoting science education, has been a vocal opponent of the legislation. The organization has complained on its website that anyone with “an ideological agenda,” not just parents, will be able to challenge material.
“People who crusade against basic, established science concepts such as evolution and climate change will have the green light to bog down the textbook selection process on the local level and bully school boards into compromises that will negatively impact science education,” the group wrote in a blog post.
Mashable published Oh boy, Florida residents can now challenge the science taught in public schools:
Proponents of Florida’s measure have argued that state-approved textbooks are “too liberal,” and that some books in school libraries are inappropriate.
In a Feb. 1 affidavit to lawmakers, one supporter asked to remove books about Cuba from elementary school libraries, complaining that they “glorified” Fidel Castro’s Communist ideals. As a certified teacher, she said she’s witnessed “children being taught that Global Warming is a reality.” Yet when “parents question these theories, they are ignored,” she wrote.
Another woman lamented in an affidavit that evolution is “presented as fact,” when she believes it’s fiction.
The Tampa Bay Times’ Gradebook blog posted a podcast Textbook challenges, new laws, school grades and more:
Gov. Rick Scott signed into law HB 989, expanding county residents’ ability to challenge public school textbooks and instructional materials. The bill arose from Collier County, where book battles often arise. Parent Michelle Groenings, who has served on the district’s instructional materials review committee, spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek about her concerns with the new law, and how things have played out in her home district.
Less than a week after satellite temperature data was revised and the full extent of global warming became even clearer, Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill that will make it easier for any Florida resident to object to science-based education in the classroom.
The Palm Beach Post published New state law will put Florida science teaching under attack:
Opening the floodgates for ideological fights over classroom content, a new Florida law is about to give climate change-deniers and evolution skeptics a fresh round of weapons to heave against science in the state’s classrooms.
In fact, it will help all kinds of people with axes to grind about what’s taught in the public schools.
PBS’s Frontline published A New Wave of Bills Takes Aim at Science in the Classroom:
The bill has plenty of critics, including the National Coalition Against Censorship and the Florida School Boards Association. The National Science Teachers Association’s executive director, David Evans, described it as “a way of banning books by folks who basically don’t like the results of science.”
Science teacher Brandon Haught, a spokesman for Florida Citizens for Science and author of “Going Ape: Florida’s Battles over Evolution in the Classroom,” worries the bill could be used “as a bludgeon” by “people with an anti-science agenda.”
“Creationists, climate change deniers, anti-vaccine people — it gives them a much stronger voice in deciding what our students learn,” Haught said.
Haught says he’s worried that financially strapped districts, reluctant to pay for a hearing officer, may cave to objections, regardless of their merits.
But Flaugh, of Florida Citizens Alliance, waved off the concern, saying members of his group would volunteer to be hearing officers.
The Tampa Bay Times published School districts gird for impact of Florida’s new ‘religious expression’ law:
David Barkey, religious freedom counsel and southeastern area counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, suggested the Legislature took one step beyond the Constitution in requiring school districts to establish a policy that provides a forum for student religious expression. Districts were given the option to do so five years ago with an “inspirational messages” law, and none acted.
Barkey also observed that the law could open the door to unfettered religious commentary in the public schools. He pointed to the first line of the law after the section name: “A school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression.”
If a school cannot discriminate against any type of religious expression, he said, it could result in a classroom teacher who ad libs controversial views into a lesson to children who have no recourse but to listen.
Brandon Haught, a Volusia County high school science teacher who runs the Florida Citizens for Science blog, had big concerns.
“There are teachers who do teach science but who don’t believe in evolution,” Haught said. “This could embolden them to say, ‘The law is on my side’ ” and start covering topics such as creationism or intelligent design in their classes.
The law does not speak directly to that issue.
Second Nexus published Florida Approves “Anti-Science” Legislation in Victory for Religious Right:
An affidavit from Mary Ellen Cash, a Collier County resident, charges that evolution and global warming were taught as “reality.” Still another affidavit––this one from Collier County resident David P. Bolduc––complains that an 8th-grade U.S. History textbook “teaches the children to glorify 13th century Muslim Kings of West Africa” and that it “teaches the children to be subservient to a despotic U.S. president” by teaching them about the president’s ability to issue executive orders.
In a blog post, Brandon Haught, of Florida Citizens for Science, a group of parents and teachers advocating for science education, condemns the new legislation. “This means our fight is only just now beginning,” he wrote. “Each and every one of us has to be on alert. You must keep an eye on your local school board and everyone who brings forth a complaint about textbooks. If you don’t, we truly lose. At this point the fight is at the local level. If you’re not there and willing to stand up for sound science education, then we’re done.”
Stay tuned. There is more media coverage to come.