We haven’t written about creationist legislative activity in Florida since 2012, and that state hasn’t really been fun since the earliest days of this blog, when rapturous Ronda Storms was running amok in the Florida Senate. But things seems to be heating up again. Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have just posted this at their website: Antiscience bills in Florida. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Two bills introduced in the Florida legislature — House Bill 899 and Senate Bill 1018 — are ostensibly aimed at empowering taxpayers to object to the use of specific instructional materials in the public schools, for example on the grounds that they fail to provide “a noninflammatory, objective, and balanced viewpoint on issues.” There is reason to believe that evolution and climate change are among the targets.
NCSE says the two bills are identical, so this is the one in the state Senate: SB 1018. It proposes extensive revisions to existing Florida law. Here’s a link where you can track the bill’s progress. It’s sitting in the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. And here’s where you can track House Bill 0899. Okay, back to NCSE:
According to the Naples Daily News (December 22, 2015), “The identical bills are the work of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance and Better Collier County Public Schools.” … Florida Citizens’ Alliance’s website complains of a world history textbook that in it “Darwin’s conclusions [are] presented as fact and the biblical theory as ludicrous … [it] states as fact millions of species exist and fossil records document changes over time. … while the biblical explanation claims all species created by God on the same day,” and of an American history textbook that it is “permeate[d]” by “discussion of climate change.”
Jeepers — could they be creationists? Let’s read on:
Currently, Florida parents unhappy with instructional materials are entitled to complain to their local school board, whose decision is final. HB 899 and SB 1018, if enacted, would allow any taxpayer to complain to the local school board, and moreover allow them to appeal a negative result to a circuit court to seek damages and/or injunctive relief; the prevailing party in such a case would be entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs.
Your Curmudgeon is delighted! If this thing becomes law, creationists will be filing lawsuits all over the place, and we’ll have endless material for our humble blog. NCSE continues:
Florida Citizens’ Alliance’s website recently posted a list of “Examples of Acceptable/Proven K-12 Standards and Corresponding Curriculum,” which includes a link to something called Freedom Project Education Classical Judeo-Christian Online Academy, whose high school biology classes refer to “the Creator God” and use a creationist textbook (Exploring Creation with Biology, second edition).
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Who are the legislators responsible for these bills? NCSE tells us:
The sponsor of SB 1018 is Alan Hays (R-District 11), who, while serving in the Florida House of Representatives, introduced HB 1483 in 2008. As introduced, the bill was a version of the so-called academic freedom act; Hays later substituted a one-line version calling on public schools to provide “[a] thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” HB 1483 was eventually tabled.
We remember Hays. He’s a retired dentist. Back in 2008 when he was a member of the House he sponsored a companion bill to go along with the Senate’s creationism bill sponsored by rapturous Ronda Storms. See Florida’s Creationism (or “critical analysis”) Bill.
As for the identical bill in the House, it was sponsored by Ray Pilon, a retired law enforcement officer. This is great — we’ve got a creationist dentist and a creationist cop. Verily, a dynamic duo!
The new bills will be considered by the Florida legislature in 2016, so it should be a fun year. Stay tuned to this blog!
Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.
If you pop over to the FCA website, you will “learn” that Islamists have taken over US textbooks and you need guns, lots of guns!
Nick Matzke would be interested in this one. A new meme – or mutation of an old one – has appeared: citizens can object to stuff in the school textbooks, and get it removed, if it’s not “objective” enough for them. Not a word about their religion, no, sir. Why, it’s Constitution-proof!
This one looks like it might be a runner, if the legislature is fool enough. As our Curmudgeon says, it’s a licence for unlimited litigation. In each several case, the defence would have to show that the plaintiffs’ real problem was that they wished to promote their religious doctrines in the public schools, or at least remove factual content contrary to those doctrines. That would be the case in any attempt to remove the theory of evolution from texts, of course, but imagine the court time that would be burned.
And that would be a victory for the creationists, of course. They wouldn’t win in the courts, but they would certainly cause any school district to be very wary of their complaints, just on the strength of their power to haul it into court. Any place where the school board or the superintendant of the district or even an individual teacher can be intimidated into silence by the threat of litigation, will be vulnerable. And that’s plenty.
Already there are many teachers who don’t teach the theory of evolution because they know that they’ll be in the principal’s office fending off the complaints of parents who don’t want Billy taught that his great-granddaddy was a monkey. They haven’t got time for that, and they can do without the added aggravation. This bill would just amplify the problem. But for its proposers, that, as they say, is a feature, not a bug.
The pathetic thing is that Florida candidates Jeb! and Rubio haven’t the guts or intellectual integrity to do anything but pander to these maroons.
“HB 899 and SB 1018, if enacted, would allow any taxpayer to complain to the local school board, and moreover allow them to appeal a negative result to a circuit court to seek damages and/or injunctive relief; the prevailing party in such a case would be entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs.”
If it’s the intent of the legislature to bankrupt local school districts, this will be enacted. However, it is a two-edged sword. There’s a good probability (even in Florida) that a circuit court would find in favor of the school district, saddling the unhappy creationist parents with a huge legal bill.
But Dave Luckett is right — it wouldn’t get that far. The schools won’t risk it, and will just stop teaching evolution. For the sake of Florida’s kids, let’s hope the legislature has some common sense.
How sad and pathetic. And anyone can object to a curriculum? Just total creationist garbage.
Dave Luckett notes
I know ancedotally that is true; what I am wondering now is, has any professional teachers’ organisation undertaken a survey of its members to get some numbers on the size of this problem? I’ve done a little casual googling to look, but maybe some readers of this blog can point me to a good source?
Belay that: just found Ed’s useful link he kindly posted 2 days ago here on the ‘Whistleblower’ thread; that’s a good start for some data!
One of the main problems with this type of crap is it does not really affect anything! Any job or industry that hires could care less about the evilution teaching or creation teaching or climate change teachings in schools. In fact creationist ideas are preferred as it is religious and religious teachings are all about being nice obedient sheep which is the type of person many like as they don’t make trouble.
I can see it now: after kicking Darwin to the curb, they’d go after Lincoln, claiming that our sixteenth president was a vicious tyrant who used brute force to suppress the Southern states’ perfectly legitimate right to secede from the Union in order to prevent the freeing of their slaves.
This bill, if passed, is guaranteed to end up before the Supreme Court. And even given the Court’s present makeup, it would almost certainly be struck down.
Oh boy! I can’t wait! I have only five years more till I can sign on as “Retiredsciguy2”. Still, it should be most interesting up here in the Arc of FL. I fully expect our feeble minded legislature to pass these bills with glee. Still, I would make a great test case because I don’t give a damn! FL has made it damn near impossible to fire me! I am a hold over from the tenure days. I refused to give it up in spite of theoretical pay advantages. I am also a Retired Soldier. FL gives us many protections and advantages over non Veterans. Sir Harry Kroto is just down the street at FL State. We know where he stands. If not, read his manifesto. It will bring joy to the hearts of right minded individuals. I am always spoiling for a fight being just one of those kind of guys! Been awhile since I got into a good one. I am already considered to be the anti-Christ by certain elements in our community so they should locked and loaded to put their stamp on things. However, I also am thought of as a teaching legend as well so I can count on lots of parental backup as well. Hoooooaaah bring the knuckle draggers on! Oh I can see many possible outcomes! The best, early retirement with additional pay just to make me go away! I am so ready to start crusing the Caribbean with my hot new wife!
Holding The Line In Florida says: “Sir Harry Kroto is just down the street at FL State. We know where he stands.”
Sir Harold is one of the best. He honored this humble blog by posting a comment here, long ago. It was in this post from 2008: Professor Reiss Loses Post at Royal Society.
We here at Florida Citizens for Science are suiting up for the battle. Anyone who wants to help out is more than welcome to! http://www.flascience.org/
As the Naples Daily News article notes, this amendment was drafted by activists in Collier, whom we’ve been watching for some time. If anyone has the time and inclination, look up the following groups on Facebook to get some context for what we’ve been dealing with and for what is now being exported to all of Florida with these bills: Better Collier County Schools (administered by the author of the amendment), Parents ROCK (founded by a current Board member), SWFL Citizens’ Alliance (headed by the other author of the bill), Collier Citizens for Educational Achievment (the acronym pilfered from our teachers’ union), and Concerned Collier Parents Society (the acronym pilfered from our District [CCPS]).
These people got the Liberty Council involved when we added “sexual orientation and gender identity” to our anti-discrimination policies, and they got Alex Jones involved in a free speech case that was ultimately dismissed. I could go on and on and on …
Holding The Line In Florida writes,
“Oh boy! I can’t wait! I have only five years more till I can sign on as “Retiredsciguy2”.
Well, hopefully, I’ll still be around and kicking then, and I’d be proud to share the login name with you.
Megalonyx asked if many teachers were holding back on teaching evolution for fear of parental blowback. I can only answer for myself; I taught evolution as it applied to paleontology in 7th grade earth science classes, as well as in the biology parts of general science classes at the same grade level. I never had any problems, even though it was in a potentially creationist area east of Cincinnati. I tried to do a good job explaining how natural selection works, so it would make sense to the students. I never confronted their religious views.
But my last year of teaching was 12 1/2 years ago, so things may have changed, especially with Ken Ham’s rantings so close by. I can say positively, though, that if I were still teaching I wouldn’t change a thing — except possibly some parents’ minds.
I wouldn’t be seeking a fight so much as HTLIF, but I certainly wouldn’t be backing down, either.
@ Pope Retiredsciguy: Thanks for that; it matches my own experience (as a high school student, not a teacher!) in California in the 1960’s with BSCS Biology. Evolution was not controversial, and I don’t recall any students/parents making a fuss.
My own offspring have had their education in the UK, and the equivalent of 7th grade Biology is Evolution and Ecology. The first unit actually kicks off with a short intro on pre-Darwin science and Paley’s Watchmaker–as a background to explain just how many questions could not be answered until Darwin published his ToE. All great stuff!