Collier County, Florida Science Book Battle

Last year we reported Florida School Board Harassment Bill Is Now Law, and said:

The bill allows either parents of students in the local schools, or residents of the county where the school board functions, to complain to the school board about instructional materials or books in the library, and the board has to conduct a hearing on the complaints. In other words, any creationist drooler can harass his local school board merely for having a copy of Darwin’s Origin of Species in the library. However, after giving the drooler a hearing, the decision of the school board is final.

Today in the Naples Daily News, the primary newspaper of Naples, Florida and all of Collier County, we discovered this happy headline: Evolution, climate change skeptics lose battle over science textbooks, and they have a comments feature. Here are some excerpts from the news story, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Collier County School Board members voted Monday to adopt a new batch of science textbooks, more than a dozen of which were the subject of official objections from Naples residents who cited issues ranging from unbalanced views of evolution and climate change to inaccurate racial depictions of science experts. Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter [droolers] voted against adopting the disputed textbooks while board chair Roy Terry and members Stephanie Lucarelli and Erick Carter voted in favor.

The Collier County school board is divided 3 to 2. Their meetings must be fun! The newspaper says:

Since the slate of instructional materials was unanimously approved for adoption at the May 8 board meeting, four people submitted 220 objections to content within 18 textbooks. The overall theme of the objections was a lack of balance and context when referencing evolution and climate change and the treating of those topics as fact rather than theory.

Four people! We’re not told until later if they have kids in the school system. Spoiler alert — three of them don’t. The law requires only that that they be residents of the county, so any drooler can object to textbooks. The newspaper then quotes from the one objector who is a parent:

Evolution and natural selection are “a total indoctrination of liberal ideas,” wrote Collier parent Melissa Pind in her complaint. “Very disgusting and disappointing that this is included and no other viewpoint is even mentioned! What a shame that kids’ minds aren’t opened up to other possibilities.”

Disgusting indeed! The newspaper continues:

Keith Flaugh, co-director of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance, a conservative group that’s suing the school district over social studies textbooks adopted last year, wrote in his objection that there are “many very credible scientists” who have proven [Hee hee!] the impossibility of evolution.

Yeah, they’re credible. Let’s read on:

Michael Mogil, a meteorologist, objected to images of polar bears [What?], which he wrote were “the ‘poster child’ of human-caused climate change proponents.” Repeated references to climate change, he said, “brainwashes” students. Several of Mogil’s complaints were aimed at images of science experts within the textbooks, which he said inaccurately represented the racial makeup of society’s expertise in science. “Why would I wind up with four black males and no white males,” he asked board members Monday. “It just doesn’t look right.”

No comment. Here’s another excerpt:

Naples resident Joseph Doyle took aim at passages that addressed overpopulation, which he said is “an exaggerated, unproven concern.” “This is a slippery slope implying the need to kill humans — i.e. abortion, euthanasia,” he wrote.


Brandon Haught, a high school biology and environmental science teacher in Orange City, . and founding member of Florida Citizens for Science, a group focused on defending against attacks on science education, advised the board to be weary of the hundreds of objections filed. … The objectors’ strategy, he said, “is to overwhelm you by so many facts that it makes you think, ‘Oh, maybe there’s something to it. If you actually take a look at each individual fact you’ll find that they’re hollow,” he said. “They’re based on misinterpretations and wishful thinking and religion.”

Several people, including Haught and some board members, noted the unconstitutionality of teaching religion in public schools. Board member Erika Donalds [one of the board’s droolers] disagreed, arguing creationism has a place in science classrooms. “The theory of intelligent design and the theory of evolution can be taught alongside each other without violating the constitution,” she said.

Erika never heard of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Here’s one last excerpt:

The meeting lasted five hours, the vast majority of which was spent hearing from objectors Mogil, Flaugh and Doyle, none of whom have children attending Collier public schools.

Five hours? Try to imagine the mindless horror of that event! Anyway, the good guys won and the droolers went home defeated. A happy result indeed.

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

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22 responses to “Collier County, Florida Science Book Battle

  1. Today in the Naples Daily News, the principle newspaper of Naples, Florida …

    Make that principal, and all of us pedants will be happy.

    As to the main point of the post, it’s good news. Too bad, though, that the school district is forced to waste so much time defending settled science.

  2. ” Several of Mogil’s complaints were aimed at images of science experts within the textbooks, which he said inaccurately represented the racial makeup of society’s expertise in science. ‘Why would I wind up with four black males and no white males,’ he asked board members Monday.”

    It would only be inaccurate if there were no black males at all working in the sciences. Evidently, Mogil doesn’t feel the need to provide role models for black youths to follow — other than sports stars, that is.

  3. It does sound like they have principles.
    Isn’t the board divided 3 to 2? not 5 to 3?

  4. retiredsciguy says: “Make that principal, and all of us pedants will be happy.”

    Aaaargh!! That word always confounds me. It’s fixed. Thanks.

  5. The Bicycling Guitarist says: “Isn’t the board divided 3 to 2? not 5 to 3?”

    Aaaargh!! That’s fixed too. Thanks.

  6. …and the treating of those topics as fact rather than theory.” A theory describes how something works, as in the ‘theory of equations’ or ‘monetary theory’. I do know what the writer is trying to say (hypothesis) but it’s hard to give them much credit when they can’t even operate the English language.

  7. @Cynic
    Thank you.

  8. “to overwhelm you by so many facts”
    Huh? The combination “fact” and “creacrap complainer” somehow doesn’t sound right to me. I suppose Haught is talking about the Gish Gallop.

  9. Michael Fugate

    I am surprised that FCA hack Keith Flaugh didn’t testify in a tinfoil hat. How many conspiracy theories can one group back?

  10. So, let’s all show up at their Church/Sunday School this weekend and complain about them not presenting a balanced set of alternative viewpoints on the resurrection…..

  11. @Kosh
    I understand your intent, but the way you phrase it might play into the hands of the creationists.
    For they might twist your words to make evolution seem to be a religion.
    And they can get away with saying that there is an alternative – something positive or substantial – to evolution.

  12. I corresponded with Keith Flaugh today. He is polite in his correspondence, but wrong about everything.

  13. “Try to imagine the mindless horror of that event!” I don’t have to. I was there. Let me tell you about it:

  14. Business…where were you educated?
    jobseeker. .. in Florida high school and florida college.
    Business … Ok will let you know about the hire….thows resume into trash as jobseeker leaves.

  15. Board member Kelly Lichter is a paid up member of the Florida Citizens Alliance, so that vote was always predictable.

  16. Mr Mogil was, IMHO, the best of the objectors in all possible respects. His focus was meteorology (he is a meteorologist) and there was no political or religious basis to his objections. His objections were ‘principally’ (ahem) the kind of thing that a book’s editor might/should identify. Whether it was due to his work or not, one of the books on meteorology was actually retracted from the proposed list.

    On first reading I did wonder about his motivation regarding objections on the gender and race/culture bias of the “experts” represented in each book, but this was explained at the meeting. Mr Mogil wants children to understand that they can have an interest/career in climate/weather/meteorology regardless of their gender, race or age. However the diversity of the “experts” in the various books wasn’t balanced nor did it reflect Floridian life, and this might discourage some children. Call it ‘wishful thinking’ or even naivety, but the objection lacked malice or prejudice.

  17. Please tell me I’m not the only one who noticed parallels to Trump and his cult, namely:
    *”There are many credible scientists…” vs. Trump’s “people are saying…”
    *Let the kids decide vs. Trump’s Right to try unapproved drugs
    Must be some truth in this avalanche of objections vs. must be some truth in Trump’s avalanche of lies

  18. Flaugh’s presentation was embarrassing. I think he was so caught up in his objections to the process (which got short shrift), that he bumbled his way along without any clear focus and he came across as underprepared, though clearly he wasn’t.

    He lacked the tact, some might say ‘intelligence’, to avoid a confrontation with the hearing officer. Prior to the meeting, Flaugh’s lawyers had attempted to contact the hearing officer (himself a practising attorney) regarding due process. None of this need have been disclosed except that Flaugh get on niggling the hearing officer, telling him what were his legal obligations, and suggesting he (the hearing officer) was under an obligation to the board, implying that he wasn’t independent. The hearing officer, who went onto to demonstrate a polite firm but fair approach, finally got sick of Flaugh and told him off.

    Flaugh relied almost exclusively on the book, “Darwin’s Doubt” for his time at the podium, and he lived up to standard creationist strategy by freely quoting long lists of the names of ‘eminent’ academics and others without offering any context for their inclusion. Funnily enough, Flaugh didn’t mention any of the dozens of critical reviews of Meyers’ book, forgot to put on record those magic words, “Intelligent Design” and even neglected to mention Meyers’ stellar performance at the Kitzmiller v Dover case.

    If Flaugh insists on being the front man for the FCA, then the FCA is doomed. As so often happens, leaders of these “community” organisations treat them as their personal fiefdoms, and there is no place in the spotlight for younger, competent public speakers.

  19. Apologies, Meyer didn’t testify in Kitzmiller. I was confusing him with Behe who, of course, covered himself with glory… not.

  20. If there are so many eminent people who don’t accept the reality of evolution, for more than a century, why have they not been able to come up with an alternative? Any alternative, let alone one with evidence, for such basic facts as the relationship among living things, comparative anatomy: the “tree of life:”

  21. 3-2 split. So we are one board member election away from having the objectors in charge. And if we end up with Pence nominees on SCOTUS, we will not be able to take refuge in Kitzmiller. Be very afraid

  22. I’ll save my fear for the time Donald the Clown intends to start a war – not an economic one but one fought with actual weapons.