History lesson on science standards
There’s a reason why Florida’s current science standards, adopted in 1996, don’t mention the word evolution. And it’s pretty much what’s commonly assumed: According to a former DOE insider, the department, then under Commissioner Frank Brogan, feared the word would spark a cultural firestorm.
“The code word got to be ‘biological change over time,’ “ Tom Baird, a former DOE policy analyst, told The Gradebook. “Anybody looking at that went, ‘Right, we’re teaching evolution’ … but without triggering the outcry from church groups and so forth.”
The right decision? Baird didn’t think so. And because of the omission (well, and a ton of other problems), the standards took a lickin’ (see St. Petersburg Times story here). But Baird also said he understands why DOE might have been especially sensitive at the time. Science standards, period, were a new and big deal, along with the notion that kids would soon be tested on those standards. The feeling was, “We don’t have to fight that (cultural) battle right now,” Baird said. Not on top of everything else.
Which brings us to the proposed new standards. They dub Darwin’s theory of evolution one of the “big ideas” that kids need to understand to be well grounded in science. And so far – dare we say it? – there has been no firestorm. True, public comment has drawn a fair amount of calls for inclusion of creationism or intelligent design, and in Polk County, there’s a bit of a ruckus (see Lakeland Ledger story here). But, if that’s as heated as it’s going to get, maybe Florida is a long way from Kansas, after all? (Knock on wood.)
- Ron Matus, state education reporter