Some folks just refuse to get it. Earlier this year, Florida’s Board of Education revamped its science standards to fully include the teaching of evolution and rebuffed creationist attempts to hijack the wording to make them more intelligent-design friendly. And, for a bit, it seemed like folks down there understood that the teaching of religion has no place in public school science classes.
But after they were unable to sway the majority of BOE members, the defeated creationists turned to Florida lawmakers, many of whom have little knowledge about science or educational issues.
Now, “academic freedom” bills are being introduced in the legislature and it looks all so familiar. The Florida Citizens for Science organization is following the fight closely and offers this account of what’s really going on: Politicians are once again trying to sneak religion through a backdoor, this time under the code words of “academic freedom.” Also, the Sun-Sentinel has a great story on the dishonesty and evasiveness of the bill’s primary sponsor:
Opponents have voiced concerns that Storms’ bill will open the door to teaching religious-based theories, like intelligent design, in public school classrooms. But Storms, one of the Senate’s most conservative members, repeatedly refused to answer questions on whether that could happen.
Her only reply: teachers could discuss a “full range of scientific views.”
Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller of Cooper City, frustrated at her answers, later said: “We could have stuck bamboo shoots under her fingernails and she wouldn’t have answered.”
On Monday, ACLUPA’s legal director Witold “Vic” Walczak was in Florida at the invitation of the state’s ACLU and science organizations. As someone with more than a little experience with this issue, Walczak warned lawmakers that the bill is a “litigation magnet.”
According to Wes Elsberry, posting on the science blog Panda’s Thumb, Walczak said not only does the bill invite religion into the classroom, it also makes it impossible to take it out. If passed into law, it would give teachers the authority and right to teach whatever what they wanted, including their personal religious views. The school district would then be caught in a no-win situation. Should they prevent the teacher from religious proselytizing to students during the school day, the teacher would be able to sue the district under this law of academic freedom.
Should the school district ignore the teacher’s behavior, parents who object to the teacher’s religious bullying would be within their rights to sue the district under the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. And we up here in Pennsylvania know how that would likely turn out.
Walczak said at the press conference that, just as he and others involved in the Kitzmiller case were able to convince a conservative judge that intelligent design was merely repackaged creation science, “We will be able to do the same in Florida when teachers use the same religious anti-evolution arguments in classes.”
Let’s hope folks listen.
Lauri in York