Florida’s Proposed New Science Standards

There’s an Orlando Sentinel article by Leslie Postal that describes how the new proposed science standards explicitly say that students should learn about evolutionary science. The proposed standards will have a period now for public commentary before the Florida Department of Education adopts them.

This is the final, critical phase for the citizens of Florida to be on the lookout for attempts to insert phrases that would allow antievolution advocates to argue that the standards either permit or require the teaching of their old, tired, bogus antievolution arguments. We know what many of those will look like — “teach the controversy”, “critical analysis”, etc. We also know that attempts to redefine science are bad news. Something that may be particularly annoying would be an attempt to put something in the standards that would give students the mistaken idea that science can never remove a false explanation from the table. That is, in fact, the only way in which science can act with a degree of certainty. It seems to be popular with antievolutionists to take up a radical postmodernist view that all stances are matters of personal interpretation, none of them being objectively more worthy than any other. Anyone trying to slide in “same facts, different interpretations” language should be considered with great suspicion. After all, that strategy has been apparent ever since the same arguments were being called “creation science”.

The article has this bit in it:

Fred Cutting, a retired engineer in Clearwater who served on the standards committee, wanted the new document to reflect that latter view and to let students know that scientists do not yet have all the answers.

“If you want students to understand the theory, they have to understand the pros and cons,” he said, adding that the draft presented too “cut-and-dried” a view of evolution.

The reporter didn’t quite deliver the full background here. Cutting is not just some retired engineer; he is also a known “intelligent design” creationism advocate, who as recently as 2006 was reported to be teaching IDC to students in Pinellas County science classrooms. Certainly anything coming from known anti-science advocates should be viewed with great suspicion and with a skeptical eye looking for weasel-words and strategies.

I was happy to see Florida Citizens for Science mentioned in the article:

Joe Wolf, president of Florida Citizens for Science, called the draft standards a “wonderful” blueprint for science education. Wolf, of Winter Haven, said the evolution debate holds little interest to most scientists, who accept it as fact. That’s why the issue did not become controversial during the standards-writing meetings, he said.

“It’s a PR issue,” he said. “And it’s a religious issue. In the scientific community, it’s not an issue.”

If the new standards are adopted, “I think the kids will have a better understanding of science, which is what it’s all about,” Wolf added.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.