Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Eastman: Ignorance is dangerous

The schools of Florida should teach, as 19th century poet and social commentator Matthew Arnold put it, "the best that has been thought and said" in our culture — not, as Sen. Dennis Baxley puts it, "different world views."
Sen Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, is known as a lightning rod for contentious issues. Years ago, when he was a representative in Tallahassee, he joked about an editorial cartoon criticizing him for an “academic freedom” bill he was pushing in the state House. {Times files
Published Feb. 4

Reading Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley's proposal for requiring Florida's schools to teach "different world views" on such topics as evolution and climate change makes me wonder if the citizens of Ocala knew what they were getting when they voted for him. And then when I read that he would require that "government and civics content shall strictly adhere to the founding values and principles of the United States," as if Sen. Baxley would know what those are, I am sure they couldn't have.

Sen. Baxley has already shown he has no respect for America's "founding values and principles" in a number of ways: His opposition to "free speech zones" shows he has no understanding of the First Amendment. His advocacy for forcing guns into churches ignores the separation of church and state called for by Thomas Jefferson. And certainly his "Stand Your Ground" bill violates a whole array of the principles and values of the founding fathers of the United States.

The price to be paid for this kind of nonsense is considerable. Not only will students suffer when they take standardized tests for entrance to college — which they will, because they won't know the fundamentals of established science — but they will suffer long term as the climate of their state, country and world continues to erode because people like Sen. Baxley insist on playing politics with facts. Neither evolution nor human-caused climate change are "controversial theories": They are, by scientists the world over, confirmed as truth, as fact.

The denial of facts, from the president of the country on down to state politicians, is a dark chapter in the history of our republic, and the continued denial of the facts of climate change will soon produce an even darker chapter if we do not wake up as a country and take steps to reduce the resulting ill effects. Ask the people of Miami and Mexico Beach about climate change. Ask the people of Paradise, Calif. But don't ask politicians who don't know the difference between climate and weather.

The schools of Florida should teach, as 19th century poet and social commentator Matthew Arnold put it, "the best that has been thought and said" in our culture — not, as Sen. Baxley puts it, "different world views." Some people believe the moon is made of green cheese; that's a different world view — but it's not one we want taught in our schools.

Citizens of Ocala (and other communities throughout Florida), unite! Think of the injury you are doing to your children and your community and your world when you elect people who resist letting your schools teach established scientific fact. The truth is too important to let politicians play fast and loose with such important issues as climate change. Such politicians should have to wear a sign similar to the warning on a pack of cigarettes: "The proposals of this politician are a danger to your health, and that of your children."

Donald R. Eastman III is president of Eckerd College, a private liberal arts college in St. Petersburg.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Fans enter the stadium for opening day of the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in 2018.
    Here’s what readers had to say in Monday’s letters to the editor.
  2. The Constitution of the United States of America AP
    Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
  3. An elderly couple walks down a hall of a nursing home. MATT ROURKE  |  AP
    Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
  4. A huge number of homes owned by Baby Boomers will sell in the next 20 years. How will the trend affect the Florida housing market? CAMERON GILLIE  |  NAPLES DAILY NEWS
    The enormous generation born between 1946 and 1964 owns about 40 percent of the homes across the country.
  5. The Reed at Encore, one of Tampa's signature affordable housing projects
    Here’s what readers had to say in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
  6. Standardized test scores paint a bleak picture of stagnation, not progress.
  7. Focus on better standard pay and creating classrooms where their students can thrive.
  8. Pastor Jeremiah Saunders poses for a photo among the ruins of his church that was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, in High Rock, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, on Sept. 11, 2019. RAMON ESPINOSA  |  AP
    Where does “strong” begin and, more important, where does it end? So asks this columnist.
  9. Elementary school students go through the lunch line in the school's cafeteria in Paducah, Kentucky. ELLEN O'NAN  |  AP
    Why, just think of all the savings from cutting school lunch programs, writes Daniel Ruth.
  10. Conservative critics of the Pasco school district's stance on LGBTQ issues have complained to the School Board for a year, and show no indication of backing down. They've been wearing t-shirts saying 'Pasco kids at risk' — something district officials strongly reject. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    Students offer a lesson in civility and acceptance.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement