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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Please, not another Scopes Monkey Trial



We don't know where the majority of Florida legislators stand on the proposed new science standards, but just in case recent comments from Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, (see Gradebook post here) left either a misleading impression or a desire for more, here's what two other key lawmakers told The Gradebook last week.

Gelber State Rep. Dan Gelber (left), D-Miami Beach and the House minority leader, said the last thing a person of faith should want is for science teachers to teach matters of faith. But that's what would happen, in his view, if the proposed standards included intelligent design or some other faith-based theory. "Evolution is properly in our (proposed) science standards, and intelligent design is properly excluded,” Gelber said. “I'm surprised there is going to be a debate on this." (To see an op-ed Gelber wrote on this a couple years ago, click here.)

Gaetz Meanwhile, Sen. Don Gaetz (right), R-Niceville, says a science classroom is a good place for vigorous discussion about any and all theories, but there's no place for intelligent design in the proposed new science standards. "It would be wrong to legislate against inquiry," said Gaetz, a former Okaloosa County superintendent who chairs the Senate education committee. "But the standards themselves should be scientifically based." (The proposed standards embrace Darwin's theory of evolution and don’t mention faith-based theories.)

"If we’re going to have debate about religious doctrine, that ought to be in a class of religion," Gaetz continued. But "I'm not for turning every science in Florida into the Scopes Monkey Trial."

Does it matter what lawmakers think on this issue? It's the seven-member Board of Education that'll be voting. But does anybody doubt that behind the scenes, 160 lawmakers - or even a smattering of them – can be mighty persuasive?

The Legislature "finds almost irresistible the impulse to engage in mischief," Gelber said. "A lot of folks have very strongly held beliefs (on evolution). When there's very strong beliefs on a subject, it's hard for many of my colleagues to demur and show restraint."

- Ron Matus, state education reporter

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:30am]


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