Florida won! Science education won! Teachers, students, Florida’s future economy, etc. all won! No, it wasn’t a clean victory, but it was a victory nonetheless.
On a vote of 4 to 3 the new state science standards passed, with modifications. Those modifications include the insertion of “scientific theory of” and “law of” throughout the document. We would prefer that there were no edits to the outstanding document created by and reviewed by subject matter experts, but we can definitely live with it.
Votes yes were: Taylor, Raulerson, Fair and Shanahan. Votes no were: Martinez, Callaway and Desai. (Please correct me if I’m wrong on any of these.) However, keep in mind that Martinez voted no because he wanted the standards passed without edits.
Here are a few tidbits for you to chew over:
A group of us stood outside the capitol doors for about an hour waiting to be let in. When we finally got in out of the cold and went downstairs to the meeting room, there was a line of our opposition already there. They had been there for about half an hour! How did they get in? We asked them, and not a single person would give us a straight answer. They would just mumble something about “I was just following him in,” “I don’t know; We just kinda came in” and other nonsense.
Our opposition certainly had a plan. It started when they cried and screamed to have a hearing before the Board. As soon as that was granted, they kicked into full gear. Their 10 speakers all got on board with the “academic freedom” battle cry. They had also obviously worked closely with Board member Callaway ahead of time. When the public comments were over, Callaway continued the “academic freedom” battle cry. I have to tip my hat to them. They had an organized plan. Fortunately, it didn’t work. The whole “academic freedom” junk didn’t get off the ground with the Board and so died a glorious death on the battlefield.
The Discovery Institute, the organization that was obviously behind this “academic freedom” dog and pony show, is whining and crying about their loss. I am usually loath to link to them, but this one was too funny to pass up.
Several of our opposition’s speakers, and some members of the Board tried to make a big point about this not being about religion. What’s funny is that a FCS member sat in the audience in front of woman who, no joke, said amen every single time someone said this wasn’t about religion. Our guy eventually turned to her and said, “I thought this wasn’t about religion.” She didn’t answer him, but did stop saying her amens.
FCS sends out a sincere thanks to all who spoke today before the Board in favor of the standards. You did great! Thanks go out to everyone who supported us in this fight: the National Center for Science Education expertise, other Citizens for Science groups who gave us advice and courage, the FCS membership statewide, and everyone else who wrote letters and such. This was a team effort.
Another very heartfelt thank you goes out to Mr. Martinez. He was definitely fighting the good fight today on the Board. After the meeting I went up to him and gave him a firm handshake and a sincere thank. It looked to me like he needed to hear that encouragement.
We’re not done yet, though. We heard our opposition tell reporters that they might take their “academic freedom” battle cry to the state legislature. We also need to keep in mind all of those people and county school boards that didn’t like having evolution in the science standards. Will they do anything, whether overtly or covertly?
Help us keep an eye out, will ya?
edited to add some news stories:
Bradenton Herald: Pfeilsticker critical of new science standards
The Florida Board of Education’s narrow approval of the state’s new science standards – which includes “scientific theory of evolution” – was a political maneuver meant to appease critics of evolution, said Manatee County School Board Member Jane Pfeilsticker.
Pfeilsticker was one of the 40 science experts and teachers who helped revamp the standards.
“I think it was inappropriate,” Pfeilsticker said today, just hours after the state board approved it. “If there were any revisions to be made, it should come back to writers to be revised. The best I can see it’s a political move to appease some population of constituents.”
Florida Baptist Witness: Board approves science standards with ‘theory’ compromise
Regarding claims by several Board members that the “Nature of Science” section of the standards already provides the opportunity for scientific criticisms of evolution to be considered, [BoE member Donna] Callaway said “good teachers” will do that.
She encouraged teachers to know the standards well and parent organizations should work to ensure students will be exposed to all sides of the debate about evolution.
Kendall told the Witness a legislative remedy will be sought to explicitly provide academic freedom for teachers, noting that none of the teachers, superintendents and school boards she consulted had confidence the “Nature of Science” section of the standards would provide adequate academic freedom.
Sun-Sentinel: Evolution to be taught in state’s public schools
Evolution supporters, including mainstream scientists and clergy, told the board before the 4-3 vote the academic freedom proposal was a wedge designed to open the door for injecting religious arguments into science studies.
“We know what’s going on here,” said board member Roberto “Bobby” Martinez, a Miami lawyer. “What we have here is an effort by people to water down our standards.”
That brought shouts of “no” from the audience. Opponents, including some scientists, denied they have a religious motive. Instead, they argued there are flaws in the theory of evolution and that students should be allowed to explore them.
Jackson County Floridan: Coley pleased with evolution vote
State Rep. Marti Coley (R- Marianna) applauded the decision by the Florida Board of Education Tuesday to approve new science standards that will teach evolution as a scientific theory, not as scientific fact as had been earlier proposed.
Tallahassee Democrat: Divided board approves teaching of evolution as ‘theory’
Board member Roberto Martinez said members were caving in to pressure from fundamentalists who, however they phrased it, wanted to get “creationism” and “intelligent design” into the public schools. But board members Kathleen Shanahan and Linda Taylor said there were other theories – not just religious ones – that students should explore in addition to evolution.
The Gradebook: And the decision is …
What’s next is unclear.
Both sides have threatened lawsuits. And at least three lawmakers – Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park and Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville – have said they may file legislation if the board approves the proposed standards without significant changes.
Lawsuits? What in the heck is that all about? There are tons more stories out there. I don’t have time to link to them all. Feel free to post your favorite ones in the comments.