Florida: The Board’s Deliberation

I’ll update as things happen.

Board member Martinez rocks. He gave the commissioner a hard time over the last-minute proposal called the “academic freedom” proposal by various anti-science speakers.

Question to the commissioner: when were the “optional” standards written and who was responsible? Did those go through the drafting process? Smith: discrepancy between treatment of “theory of plate tectonics” and “evolution” presented as a concept.

Optional standards evolved very quickly, “it took seven days”. These optional standards were not proposed by the panel of experts. This whole effort was done to placate the people with concerns about the evolution standards.

Smith: That wasn’t the reason for the request for further advice.

When the proposed standards were put up, did the panel of experts have a chance to give feedback. What did they say? 29 said that they opposed them, 2 only if necessary for passage, 7 said OK, remainder had no response. Have any accepted mainstream science group had a chance to review? No.

Why even consider the option B materials? Let’s just vote.

Raulerson said in response that teaching scientific process means that we need to consider everything “open” forever. [That’s anti-science, right there. –WRE]

Smith advocates the “option” version as helpful to teachers. I think that’s a pretty weak argument, and one that various of the framers and writers rebutted.

Martinez asks whether the Option B proposal meets Sunshine Law requirements. Fair says he doesn’t understand the question.

Somebody saying she graduated from UCSD (Shanahan?) that has lots of Nobel Laureates, therefore the Option B standards are just peachy.

Fair: Option B is not the result of the same sort of process as the proposed standards. Board is not bound by what the framers propose; we make the decision. Are we in violation of the Sunshine Law? What about counsel?

Counsel: Agencies can make changes during decision-making, but must post notice afterward of the changes.

Motion made to adopt Option B standards and seconded.

Martinez: Our job is to adopt world-class standards, a simple task. Process of about a year. We can pretend that what we are doing is promoting “academic freedom”, but what the record shows is that this is being done is that we are appeasing opponents of evolution by watering-down the standards. No singling out of evolution in original. Critical thinking is already in the standards. The proposed changes single out evolution. 29 of the writers said they opposed the changes. OK is not good enough. Disagree with watering-down the standards. NAS fully supports the proposed standards. We should supplant their opinion with our own?

Response of other board member (Callaway?): Lifetime spent working with young people. Put them before anybody else. I have my own belief. My responsibility to study, review, and analyze. My stance is not based on religion. Can I make a determination? If so, cannot deny it to the students of Florida. Research can’t hurt me at all. Kids are honest and have a great sense of fairness. Telling them what to think won’t work. If we decide to hide the debate and controversy, we’d need a witness protection system. Children have academic freedom to explore. Option sounds like a good way to do this, to have children investigate. This is important, it tells them where they are and where they come from. Will not vote for scientific theory because it doesn’t address this. [??? –WRE]

Akshay Desai: Knowledge-based economy. Major complaint of industries concerns educational standards. Supports standards the way they were written by framers. Need to let truth come out, debate is good. Support standards with academic freedom aspect, too. [These people are majorly confused about academic freedom, it seems. It is treated as a buzz-phrase here. –WRE]

Shanahan: Research in lab in top academic institution. Evolution is a theory. Theory is different to different people. “Scientific theory” means something specific. I’ve seen theory of evolution evolve. I don’t believe evolution is a fact. Teacher who give opportunity to make sure that students are allowed to ask and question. Things change. Support Option B.

: Underlying principles, not fact. Scientific process leaves doors open on everything. We need openness and ability to challenge. Allow the word theory in places where appropriate.

Callaway: Not sure we need to exclude either one. Academic freedom proposal can speak to this. Evolution is *A* fundamental concept.

: I just think critical analysis is covered in the standards as a component part of every “big idea”. Attaching that to a single concept is not necessary.

: Propose we make the “academic freedom” proposal as an addition.

: Vote now, amend further.

Linda Taylor: Scientific theory and addressing Martinez, I think we are respectful of the document, I don’t think that we are diluting that at all. Public policy that is workable in classroom and for the teachers.

Martinez: That’s already in the proposed standards.

Taylor: The addition carries it throughout the standards. I see scientific theory as a process, that the process produces theory.

Martinez: What is the alternative to “scientific theory of evolution”? “Religious theory of evolution”? Why add things that are not necessary? The record is deep here, and the record is clear that this is about religion. We know where all this criticism is coming from. The purpose here is to single-out and dilute the teaching of evolution. I think it is a mistake to tinker with the wording here at the podium. I think that we are missing the opportunity here.

Callaway: I resent the implication. I didn’t hear advocacy of creation or intelligent design, and I’m not either. Allow students to see… if you tell students that evolution is a fundamental concept, how can they question that.

Martinez: What is the alternative theory?

Callaway: I’m not saying that there is an alternative.

Martinez: Heliocentrism.

Callaway: Prove it.


Callaway: Must acknowledge debate.

Martinez: Not a point of debate or controversy in the mainstream scientific community.

Fair: Audience, please be quiet and do not applaud.

Raulerson: Is there a problem with the use of theory, so why do we say “cell theory”? My concern with the addition is that if we put it in, it needs to be put in everywhere. You have to acknowledge that this is theory. It is open to more discovery, it is not a law yet. [Anti-science confusion over “progression to law” noted. –WRE] The issue touches everything in here.

Fair: Calls for question on Option B adoption. Raulerson Aye… 4 Ayes, motion passed.

Florida gets watered-down standards with the backdoor provided by the Discovery Institute. (The smaller sized door of the two provided, and not the hangar doors of the “academic freedom” proposal. Hat tip to Brandon Haught.)

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.