Evolution Battle in Clay County, Florida

This is an amusing story we found in Clay Today, a weekly newspaper published in Fleming Island, located in Clay County, Florida: Darwin on trial in textbook adoption hearing. They have a comments feature, but there aren’t any comments yet. Here are some excerpts from the news story, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Clay County School Board Member Ashley Gilhousen is unhappy with the current selection of science textbooks for grades K-12 and found herself in the presence of others who shared that feeling, and those who didn’t, during the Feb. 1 school board meeting.

Ah, a school board battle over science textbooks. And what, in particular, did the lady find objectionable? The newspaper says:

During a public hearing to approve the advertised science textbook adoption, Gilhousen expressed the problems she had with how the textbooks teach evolution, claiming that it’s presented more as fact rather than theory. She also showed concern that evolution is the only theory in the textbook used to teach the origin of life.

Evolution is the only theory about life in the district’s science books? How unfair! Then they quote her, and the bracketed material is at the newspaper’s website:

“I think what we heard tonight is a whole lot of science that’s been left out of our textbooks and there is scientific argument to the theory of evolution that is not being presented,” Gilhousen said. “If you look at what the state requires, it only requires our students to know the supporting evidence for [the scientific theory of evolution] and that’s my point of contention.”

Gasp — what do the textbooks leave out? We’re told:

Gilhousen, who is running for re-election this year, said her faith is not a part of this discussion [Hee hee!], and that rather, she wants a comprehensive science education that challenges students to think critically and make their own decisions based on empirical evidence and scientific data.

We can’t find her campaign website, but this is her write-up at Balotpedia: Ashley Gilhousen. She has a degree in nursing and works as a “patient care specialist” at a children’s hospital. The news story continues with comments from the audience, and again, the bracketed material is at the newspaper’s website:

Scott Yirka, pastor of Hibernia Baptist Church on Fleming Island, said it’s a shame that students can’t have supplementary material when teaching the origin of man. “I’d like to see our kids have [supplementary material],” Yirka said. “I’m not necessarily espousing that you teach creationism but to at least have the opportunity to have a conversation about the flaws that are in evolution.”

The preacher is very fair-minded. He isn’t necessarily espousing creationism — but hey, give the kiddies a chance to attack evolution. Let’s read on:

Yirka believes that the reason many educated people disagree with much of what is taught when it comes to evolution is because they see that the cosmology is more intricate than some sort of accident, that we are far more than atoms and molecules that just randomly appeared.

That sounds reasonable. Then the preacher’s son commented:

Yirka’s son, Graham Yirka, a junior at Fleming Island High in the AICE program, said he does not believe in the theory of evolution and when he brings up intelligent design, he gets ridiculed. He also believes that the theory of evolution leads people to believe they are superior to others. … “At the core of evolution is the repudiation of equality and if in schools you want equality, equality of education, equality of opportunity, and equality all around, this is not something that’s going to further that and in fact, it’s something that’s going to hinder that.”

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] Evolution is evil!

Skipping a lot, we’re told the result of the meeting:

[T]he board voted to approve the adoption of the advertised science textbooks for grades K-12 in a 3-2 vote with board members Betsy Condon and Gilhousen voting no.

This is Betsy’s write-up at Balotpedia: Betsy Condon. She has a degree in environmental health.

So there you are, dear reader. The two ladies lost, but we have no doubt that the battle will continue in Clay County.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Evolution Battle in Clay County, Florida

  1. Right on, Yirka Junior! We need equality of ideas in the classroom! This whole rite answur/ronng answur stuf has no plays theire.

  2. “I’m not necessarily espousing that you teach creationism but to at least have the opportunity to have a conversation about the flaws that are in evolution.”

    She’s right, there are plenty of flaws in evolution!

    F’rinstance: the fact that 99.9% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct. Or the gene encoding for gulonolactone oxidase which is broken in humans, chimps and gorillas. Or impacted wisdom teeth, and all sorts of vestigal bits and pieces that litter our bodies.

  3. That story left out a lot of detail. I give a full blow by blow at the Florida Citizens for Science blog if you’re interested: http://www.flascience.org/?p=3184

  4. Michael Fugate

    Thanks Brandon!

  5. Re: Supplemental Material Concerning Intelligent Design

    Suggestion: Have available in each relevant science classroom a synopsis of Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board including Judge Jones’s decision and other related material, such as the U.S. Constitution and relevant decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. If a student asks why Intelligent Design is not taught in the science class (Biology, Earth Science, etc.), the student shall use the material to prepare a class presentation on the subject.

    Question to Holding the Line in Florida: Do you think this would work?

  6. Come to think of it, every school district in the country should have this material available for perusal by any school board member raising the same question.

  7. ‘She wants a comprehensive science education that challenges students to think critically ‘. Beware the introduction of critical thinking. It might have unintended consequences.

  8. Michael Fugate

    The last thing they want is students thinking for themselves.

  9. Holding The Line In Florida

    @retiredsciguy. Most of my students this year are barely literate. I chose to teach the lower functioning kids this year. Figured if I couldn’t teach them no one could! So the nuances of Kitzmiller would be lost on most of them. Do have some great kids too, however, just as good as any. Should be required material for Science and Civics teachers plus administrators, however, because you never know their true predilections. The elected School Board members and a Superintendent will kowtow to the most vocal people, most probably droolers, so lawsuits are only what they understand.
    Monday I start teaching the much dreaded Evilution! Our book, while definitely covering the state standards, is out of order in my opinion. It starts with Evolution, then goes to DNA and Heredity. I start with DNA, then go to heredity. This explains HOW evolution works at the basic level. Once they have a basic understanding of genetics, they are ready for my Magnum Opus, a four day teacher generated presentation of Darwin, and the steps by which he developed his hypothesis Evolution by Means of Natural Selection. We end up with how additional evidence changed this hypothesis to a Scientific Theory. Finished with that, we then go to Darwin and his Evolution by Means of Sexual Selection. They really tune into that. Nothing like mentioning the word SEX to a 7th Grader to get their undivided attention! We finish up with PBS’s What Darwin didn’t know. If after all that, if they still question, I give it up as I have done my best to enlighten them and leave them to become the next cadre of Trump voters!
    We have what is called the Religious Neutrality Statement. It is the standard don’t endorse or denigrate any religion or lack of religion kind of stuff. Soooooo, I bring every religion I can think of whenever the situation allows. That way the kiddies can see that there are many many differing views other than theirs and they all are equally valid. Silly Humans, we used to believe that diseases were caused evil humors and witchcraft and the end of the world is near at hand when Ragnarok arrives! All the time with a smile of course!

  10. @HTLIF — Sounds like a great course of study you have there, Line Holder. We need more teachers like you.

    When I came up with the idea of the Kitzmiller supplemental materials, I was thinking of this part of SC’s post:
    “Yirka’s son, Graham Yirka, [Yirka is the Baptist preacher] a junior at Fleming Island High in the AICE program, said he does not believe in the theory of evolution and when he brings up intelligent design, he gets ridiculed.”

    Graham Yirka probably doesn’t know the whole story behind ID & Kitzmiller v. Dover. I’m guessing that the AICE program is for advanced students. Once he studies up, he should be able to understand the problem that would be faced by his school district if they taught Intelligent Design. He won’t like it, but at least he’ll have a better understanding.

    And I hope he isn’t being ridiculed by the teacher for bringing up ID. A good teacher would explain that there is no evidence supporting ID, and therefor it’s not taught in a science class. Ridiculing a student’s religious belief is certainly no way to change his mind.

  11. “at least he’ll have a better understanding”
    I’m not optimistic. He very well might cry “Expelled!” or “Censorship!” or something similar.

    “there is no evidence supporting ID”
    Kitzmiller vs. Dover recognized that such evidence is impossible and that that’s why ID cannot be taught in science class. I have explained it myself to 15, 16 years old kids: methodological naturalism means natural explanations for natural phenomena. My pupils got it; the question is if religious indoctrination hasn’t poisoned Graham’s mind so much yet that it’s closed for this simple idea.

  12. ” She also showed concern that evolution is the only theory in the textbook used to teach the origin of life.” If evolution is taught as an explanation of the origin of kife, she is quite right to complain.

    Seriously, HTLIF, my hat off toyou, but what’s all this about Darwin, especially as you start off, rightly, by teaching about things of which Darwin had no inkling? I think this matters; see my one and only article in The Amercan Biology Teacher, http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1662/005.071.0207 “Putting Darwin in His Place: The Need To Watch Our Language”, and related updated blogpiece “Even on his birthday, don’t say Darwin unless you mean it” https://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/even-on-his-birthday-dont-say-darwin-unless-you-mean-it-updated

  13. Holding The Line In Florida, your teaching method is a good approach — far better than just making the kiddies learn the theory and recite it on an exam.

    I’ve previously mentioned that Asimov once described how he wrote his general-audience science books. He did it from an historical perspective. He said that by explaining the development of a field step by step, the reader could see how the science developed, and how newly discovered facts sometimes enhance and sometimes revise earlier understandings — sort of like an intellectual adventure story. Another advantage of doing it that way, he said, is that such books rarely need revision except for the final chapters.

  14. Holding The Line In Florida

    @Paul Braterman I am in agreement with you. I actually begin the series of lessons with “The Story That Lice Can Tell.” That prepares them for what is coming concerning the human angle in the story. The reason for Darwin is that our text book begins with him and the Beagle. There is little or no background information. My one foray into the local Mega Church 15 years ago convinced me that these homegrown Hamites (I used to get AIG propaganda accidently left on my classroom floor!) understood only one thing about evolution, Darwin. His name is synonymous with it. So in my presentation I begin with the state of the world and knowledge at the time of Darwin’s birth to get proper background. We then go on, as the SC noticed, as an adventure story with the development of the Theory. We don’t end it with Darwin, indeed, he is only the beginning, but a beginning that they all have heard off. That is why I show “What Darwin Never Knew” to them. By the time Tiktaalik is presented, most of the kids are nodding in agreement with positive comments. Only a few hard cores are left to say “I ain’t kin to no monkey!”
    @retiredscieguy, Only four more years till I can sign on as retiredsciguy II! I think your idea would be great for High School students, but I can see one issue, they might not want to do it and claim persecution. You know how much Xtians love to be persecuted for their faith!! Especially when one is the son of a Baptist preacher. After all, the family income is at stake!!!!