The Florida State Board of Education has adopted new science standards that for the first time mandate the teaching of evolution in public schools.
By a 4-3 vote Feb. 19, the board approved standards that include study of “the scientific theory of evolution.”
Insertion of the words “scientific theory” was a nod to fundamentalist Christian forces that had mobilized against the standards. But advocates of sound science education and church-state separation were nevertheless generally happy with the outcome.
“Florida won!,” said Brandon Haught of Florida Citizens for Science. “Science education won! Teachers, students, Florida’s future economy, etc., all won! No, it wasn’t a clean victory, but it was a victory nonetheless.”
The standards were written by teachers and state education officials. They are part of an overhaul of the entire science curriculum, which lists 575 curriculum benchmarks for students to meet.
Evolution critics waged an enthusiastic campaign against the standards. Florida newspapers reported that some local school boards passed resolutions opposing the teaching of evolution. At open meetings around the state, opponents demanded that “intelligent design” or other forms of creationism be included.
Dennis Bennett, superintendent of the Dixie County Public Schools, said he opposes teaching evolution as a fact because “everyone knows it’s not fact. There’s holes in it you can drive a truck through.”
In a Feb. 12 letter to School Board Chairman T. Willard Fair, Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the courts have repeatedly forbidden teaching religion in science classes.
“Any effort to introduce creationism in Florida’s public school science curriculum,” the AU letter insisted, “will harm the religious liberty rights of students and their families…. Parents, not schools, have the right to direct the religious upbringing of their children.”
Creationism advocates have vowed to turn to the legislature to seek ways to undercut the new science standards.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, the Florida Family Policy Counsel’s John Stemberger said after the vote that he and other Religious Right forces hope to persuade lawmakers to pass protections for teachers who offer alternatives to evolution.
In other news:
• Frustrated over their inability to get articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, a band of “young-Earth” creationists has decided to start its own journal.
Answers in Genesis, a fundamentalist Christian ministry based in Kentucky, said it has launched an online journal called The Answers Research Journal to disseminate creationist views. Ministry leader Ken Hamm claims the journal will be peer-reviewed but admitted to Religion News Service that the peers will consist of creationists.