Each state has teaching standards, a set of guidelines for teachers that set benchmarks for what students should learn in various disciplines. In general, state standards get reviewed every few years to make sure they reflect the best understanding we have of what kids should learn. Also in general, that's a good thing. However, of course, standards about evolution get attacked by the usual suspects, and it so happens that sometimes the people in charge of changing the standards have an aversion to reality.
And now, thanks to state education reporter Ron Matus, we have learned that Florida has at least one such person.
A most remarkable editorial has appeared in the Florida Baptist Witness, a newspaper with an obvious slant. The editorial raises the very tired (and long debunked) creationist concerns about teaching standards that include educating students about "Darwinism". The usual nonsense ensues (they even quote the Disco 'tute!) , and would be unremarkable except for the following passage:
At least one member of the State Board of Education (SBOE) is concerned about the new science standards. Donna Callaway, in an e-mail interview with me, explained why she will vote against the new standards, as currently written, when the matter is put to the seven-member board in January.
â€œI agree completely that evolution should be taught with all of the research and study that has occurred. However, I believe it should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origin of life,â€ Callaway told me.
Oh dear, the dreaded "teach the controversy" garbage! Let me be plain: there are no other theories of life. Biologists know evolution to be true, and to be not only the best theory going for how life got to be where it is, but consider it a fact. Obviously, Ms. Callaway clearly means Intelligent Design, which is not a theory. It's garbage.
Evolution â€œis like no other subject we teach. Therefore, it is of supreme importance,â€ she said. â€œThis has the possibility of confirming or denying for a child who he/she really is. This strikes to the meaning, the value, and the core of life itself. I firmly believe that a child can deal with the proof of science along with a personal belief in God as the Creator of the universe at the same time. The classroom should allow him, openly, that opportunity.
No, it shouldn't. What is it about the First Amendment these folks find so hard to understand? If they want their kids to learn about the nonsense of creationism, then teach them at home or in church. School is where they learn about reality.
A longtime, active member of First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Callaway added, â€œMy hope is that there will be times of prayer throughout Christian homes and churches directed toward this issue. As a SBOE member, I want those prayers. I want God to be part of this. Isnâ€™t that ironic?â€
Ironic? No, not really. Par for the course, it seems like. Let me be clear: she can ask folks to pray; that's her right... but she needs to understand that this sort of thing needs to stay out of the schools. It sounds to me like she's confusing her own beliefs with what is, y'know, Constitutional.
Those of us familiar with creationist tactics have seen this kind of rhetoric time and again. That doesn't make it ineffective, though. Only a tiny fraction of Americans read the web, and can find the real information behind this evil movement. I imagine a large fraction of the people who get info on these topics get it through organs like the Florida Baptist Witness.
So, if you live in Florida, you need to make your voice heard! Call your State reps and tell them that teaching religion in school is illegal, and that is what these folks are trying to do. Remind them that Kansas and Dover were humiliated, and most importantly remind them that millions of taxpayers dollars were wasted fighting reality. Write editorials to the newspapers. Call your local TV reporters. Get heard.
As has been shown time and time again, teaching creationism, or its Trojan Horse Intelligent Design, is illegal in public schools. The law is quite clear on this, but clearly many people in positions of power are not.
Floridians, you still have time to save yourself a whole peck of woe. Get on it.
Hat tip to the many folks who alerted me about this situation.