Citizens Influence The Florida Board Of Education's Vote On Evolution As "Fact"
Tallahassee, FL - The Florida Board of Education voted Tuesday to drop language which leaned exclusively toward evolution from the new Florida Performance Science Standards, written last October but not yet in force. This came after five public meetings, which many Floridians claimed were announced too late for most to attend, and that citizens who had voiced their opinion at those open meetings had to do so facing a video screen rather than the board appearing in person.
There was not going to be a chance for the public to speak today before the vote, but at the Orlando meeting last week, attendees persuaded the Board to allow yet another opportunity to share views on this volatile issue. After 200,000 citizens wrote in to rate the new standards online, and 22,000 e-mails poured in to the Board members, the Board succumbed to this request.
Ten people were allowed to speak from each "side" of the debate, for three minutes each. One group of ten represented the many concerned parents, teachers, religious leaders and even scientists who found an anti-diverse, anti-academic freedom aspect to clauses in the new standards which referred to the theory of evolution as the be-all and end-all of human life's origins. Another ten represented many others who wanted evolution to be considered fact, once and for all squelching any exploratory conversation about creationism or Intelligent Design in public classrooms, and leaving the faith issue to be taught at home or in church.
T. Willard Fair, Board Chairman, opened the meeting with a sense of humor, proclaiming he had personally received 2,000 messages on his Blackberry, and today the people and the Board members would see the whites of each other's eyes.
Many presenters with high academic teaching and scientific credentials stated that "real" science itself is based on having to prove something can happen over and over again with the same results, and that nobody has been able to reproduce the slow process of an animal's evolution. Those favoring evolution as pure fact had just as many professional accolades to their name.
Main points made on the side of allowing students to continue considering evolution a "theory" included the presentation of Patricia Weeks, teacher and chairman of Baker County School Board. She opposed the new standards as written, feeling that critical thinking skills are eliminated from the standard. "The new standard denies the freedom of critical thinking - it says to put those skills aside on just this one issue, Darwinian belief. It promotes a double standard by taking students' ability to challenge the theory away and denies teachers' academic freedom."
Rev Harry Parrott, Baptist Minister for 38 years, favored the new standards. His children were taught evolution in public school. "The scientific concepts of evolution are basic to a scientific education. I haven't found that it has been taught as dogmatism. My sons still see it as an either/or. Let the religious debate go on, but not in science classes."
Jonathan Smith, a FL resident for 30 years, said some people there were making "egregious claims about evolution without understanding science - trying to push religion into the school system." Other speakers favoring only evolution in the classroom stated that if scientists say it is so, then we should believe it and teach it.
But still more pointed out that various scientists who have begun to question evolutionary evidence are often fired from their jobs or threatened with loss of tenure at their facilities, proving that their freedom to explore and discover has been denied.
Rich Akin, CEO of Physicians and Surgeons of Scientific Integrity which is headquarter in Florida, said many scientists don't agree that the theory of evolution should now be considered fact. He submitted strongly that current science has disproved Darwinism. Paraphrased: "Consensus science has been a barrier to scientific progress"...it is a way to avoid debate. Dogmatic overall statements do a disservice to students. Contrary to Darwin's theory, the fossil record shows deterioration not progression. Mutation selection cannot create a single gene, proving the proposed language is off target. Darwinian evolution is in a "state of collapse" scientifically."
John Stemberger, President of Florida Family Council and one of the last citizen speakers allowed, reminded all those in attendance that none of the presenters in opposition of the new standards asked for the teaching of religion, but were accused of doing so.Read more info of do my computer science homework
After a break, the Board heard additional professional testimony, including that from some of the writers of the new standards. Then, to the attendees' surprise, they stayed in the room to debate and vote the issue. Only four consenting votes were needed to go either way, and in the end the Board voted in favor of leaving the word "theory" attached. But they did not specifically add the "Academic Freedom Proposal" clause included in some other states, as they said it was implied in other parts of the document.
In a News Channel 8 poll conducted by Survey USA, 23% of respondents wanted only evolution taught; 27% wanted a biblical perspective, 27% called for a combination, 19% for Intelligent Design and the rest undecided (2/19/08 video presentation on News Channel 8 website, Tampa).
All quotes in this article were taken from the Live Board Meeting Webcast, 8:30 a.m.-10:15 a.m. EST session, Tuesday 2/19/08, accessed through the Board of Education's website.