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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida bill may rekindle debate over evolution



Florida science teachers must offer a "thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution" under a bill (SB 1854) filed by a key state senator.

Evolution supporters say the language is another attempt by Florida lawmakers to undermine the teaching of evolution, introduce the faith-based concepts of creationism and intelligent design and water down state science standards that were narrowly passed by the state Board of Education in 2008.

"We at Florida Citizens for Science oppose this theocratic attempt to introduce creationism into the Florida schools," group member Jonathan Smith told The Gradebook this morning. "We will be mounting a campaign to fight this in every way possible."

The bill was filed Saturday by Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, who chairs the Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee. He has said in the past that both evolution and intelligent design must be taught in order to foster critical thinking.

Wise filed similar legislation in 2009 but it died in committee. So far this year there is no House counterpart bill that includes similar language on evolution, but such language could be introduced to other bills. Today is the last day for bill filing.

Wise's bill would also require teaching about the history and content of the Declaration of Independence, the history of the Holocaust and the history of African Americans, "including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery." It mandates a "character-development program" in K-12 that emphasizes "honesty, virtue, moral courage, dignity of honest labor" and other values.

The evolution language is already drawing fierce criticism from scientists and science support groups. The National Center for Science Education, a watchdog on evolution issues, has a blurb about it on its web site.

People opposed to Wise's bill don't have a problem with "critical analysis," wrote Wesley Elsberry, a scientific engineering programmer in Palmetto, on his blog last night. "They are opposed to using the power of government to force teachers to tell lies to students."

[Last modified: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 8:09am]


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