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Bill Allows Teachers to Contradict Evolution 1049

Posted by Zonk
from the legislating-science-is-a-challenge dept.
Helical writes "In an attempt to defy the newly approved state science standards, Florida Senator Rhonda Storms has proposed a bill that would allow teachers to contradict the teaching of evolution. Her bill states that 'Every public school teacher in the state's K-12 school system shall have the affirmative right and freedom to objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in connection with teaching any prescribed curriculum regarding chemical or biological origins.' The bill's main focus is on protecting teachers who want to adopt alternative teaching plans from sanction, and to allow teachers the freedom to teach whatever they wish, even if it is in opposition to current standards."
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Bill Allows Teachers to Contradict Evolution

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  • by Naughty Bob (1004174) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:03PM (#22637220)
    I only had to look at my teachers to see that they contradicted evolution.
    • by Psmylie (169236) * on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:11PM (#22637402) Homepage
      They should put a little protection in there for those that want to teach the Flat Earth concept, too.
      • by zakezuke (229119) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:41PM (#22638060)

        They should put a little protection in there for those that want to teach the Flat Earth concept, too.
        Don't laugh, I went to a catholic grade school which had books in the library that honestly showed a earth centered solar system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by apoc.famine (621563)
        Good call. I was about to post a similar thing by proposing that we allow for teaching things which "contradict" standardized math - I.E. 2+2=5. Seems only fair that math gets in on the teaching of factually inaccurate information, since math forms the basis of much of science.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fishbowl (7759)
          Free speech doctrine actually allows all of this to begin with, no need for any affirmative right. The question is whether the employer (school district) is constrained in its choice of whether to retain the employee.
          This law eliminates causes for termination, more than anything, because it does not actually grant any rights the teacher (or anyone else) already has.

          • by apoc.famine (621563) <apoc.famineNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @03:57PM (#22640824) Homepage Journal
            Actually, I posted a short snarky comment because I had to go teach a science class. What you wrote is spot on, and touches on what I really wanted to say if given the time. Now that I'm taking the time...

            While granted I'm in the NE US and not in the bible-belt, I still teach science at a public high school. With the passing of NCLB, there is an increased focus on standards, and teaching to those standards. States are required, due to this law, to assess whether or not their schools are effectively teaching the state-mandated standards. Teachers, therefore, are judged based on whether or not their students are successful on the state-designed tests.

            On more than one front, this proposed law is completely pointless. The real test of what Florida wants teachers to teach is in what it assesses at the state-wide level. Without being able to see those assessments (being changed to align with the new state standards by 2012) there is no real way for me to tell what they are really looking for teachers to teach. Terminating teachers is usually pretty hard to do. By far the easiest way is if a teacher's students consistently fail state-wide exams.

            And despite the flamebait headline, this also means that you can't get fired FOR TEACHING EVOLUTION. In Florida, that's not a given. The state standards that just passed had to be revised to tone down the endorsement of evolution just to get through. In that light, given that this text reads in part, "freedom to objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution", I'm somewhat tempted to say that this is PRO-Evolution, rather than anti-evolution. Although to be fair, it works both ways.

            The upshot is that A) You're 100% right, and this is already covered in part by free speech. B) Teachers are judged and can be terminated based on how students do on state assessments, so this is pointless. C) While you now can't get fired for this, there are plenty of things buried in most contracts to get a teacher terminated for, if you really look hard enough. All in all, not a useful law in any meaningful way.
          • by Keyslapper (852034) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @04:03PM (#22640916)

            Free speech doctrine actually allows all of this to begin with, no need for any affirmative right. The question is whether the employer (school district) is constrained in its choice of whether to retain the employee.
            This law eliminates causes for termination, more than anything, because it does not actually grant any rights the teacher (or anyone else) already has.

            Uh, no, the Free Speech Doctrine most certainly does not apply. A public school teacher has no more right to talk about his or her beliefs to my child any more than I have the right to start teaching your children what I think they should learn about gay marriage, equal rights, and religion. That's your choice, not mine. Teachers do NOT have the right to teach their opinions to other people's children. They have the duty to teach the curriculum approved by the local and state school boards. Essentially, they are actors, presenting a pre-written script, and they can only ad-lib so long as they stick to the general plot. This is the real reason that good public school teachers are dreadfully underpaid.

            And as for removing it as a cause for dismissal, that won't protect them from charges of civil rights violation.

            Frankly, if someone tried to teach my daughter that ID was "fact" and evolution was "theory", I'd have them hauled in front of a Congressional Hearing for violation of my and my family's civil rights as fast as I could push the system.

            What am I teaching her? Well, ID is illogical religious fanaticism - the kind that ultimately got witches burned at the stake, and that Evolution is a theory that far surpasses any current alternative explanation in logical plausibility. Since she and my wife are Eclectic Pagans, I think this is an argument that will stick.

            Does that mean she isn't allowed to learn about other religions? Of course not; that's stifling her education. She's already learned quite a lot about all the major Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judiasm, Islam, ...) and even a fair bit about the Hindi and Buddhist faiths as well as my own preference, no faith - better known as Atheism. There's a big difference in teaching something as "what some people believe" and "what we believe". And it's a bigger difference still to instill the possibility that one day she may choose a different path. It seems to me that leaving this possibility out is dooming your child (or trying to) to a future of narrow minded dogma.
            • by hypnagogue (700024) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @05:45PM (#22642530)

              Teachers do NOT have the right to teach their opinions to other people's children. They have the duty to teach the curriculum approved by the local and state school boards. Essentially, they are actors, presenting a pre-written script, and they can only ad-lib so long as they stick to the general plot.
              And that's the reason why public schools fail. The only reason for education is to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to function in society as an adult. Teaching kids to conform to the party line without critical thought is useful only when training them to flip burgers.

              If that's what public school teaches, fine. I'll pay for private school, and 10 years from now your kids will be serving mine -- lunch.
        • by mad.frog (525085) <steven AT crinklink DOT com> on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @04:17PM (#22641198)
          I'm still hoping for someone to require math textbooks to have a sticker saying something like,

          "According to Godel's Incompleteness Theorem [wikipedia.org], this book may contain statements that are true, but not provable"
  • Sounds fine to me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:04PM (#22637234)
    What's the big deal? Stupid teachers still wouldn't be allowed to teach "Intelligent Design" anyway, since -- according to the summary -- the information still has to be scientific (and "ID" fails at that).
    • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:09PM (#22637344) Homepage Journal
      OK, now, prove to some fundamentalist teacher or other that it's not scientific, when they 'know' that it is.

      Is there some religion or another that insists on reality? So that I can claim religious persecution by these fundies?
      • Re:Sounds fine to me (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mrchaotica (681592) * on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:26PM (#22637730)

        OK, now, prove to some fundamentalist teacher (1} or other that it's not scientific (2)...
        1. I don't have to prove anything to the teacher; it's the school board or court that things would have to be proven to.
        2. On the contrary, everything is non-scientific by default. I don't have to prove that the thing isn't scientific; the teacher has to prove that it is!
      • Re:Sounds fine to me (Score:4, Informative)

        by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:44PM (#22638100)

        >OK, now, prove to some fundamentalist teacher or other that it's not scientific, when they 'know' that it is.

        That's already been taken care of. The US Supreme Court settled that hash in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) in a 7-2 decision. This is just the latest round in election year grandstanding by fundie politicians. This will go nowhere, even in Florida.
    • Under Who's Watch? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bananatree3 (872975) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:10PM (#22637384)
      The Intelligent Design crowd has pushed "scientific" evidence that is in their favor. Under what jurisdiction would the "scientific" basis fall? Would it be the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS?) The School District's "science" advisor? The teachers themselves?

      Without a concrete definition of whose "science" you are using, any teacher could find some half-baked textbook that proclaims to be scientific and tell the School Administrators they're teaching true "scientific" information.

      • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:16PM (#22637536) Journal
        Without a concrete definition of whose "science" you are using, any teacher could find some half-baked textbook that proclaims to be scientific and tell the School Administrators they're teaching true "scientific" information.

        There's a simple, unambiguous test anyone can apply to objectively determine whether a theory is scientific. That is: is the theory falsifiable? Does the theory make predictions that could potentially be proven wrong by evidence? Intelligent Design fails this test.

        So if you have kids, and they are taught intelligent design in this school system, then sue. You'll win. Every time a judge has heard the issue, he's ruled that intelligent design is not science. Because it's not, and it's easy for anyone impartial to see that.
        • There's a simple, unambiguous test anyone can apply to objectively determine whether a theory is scientific. That is: is the theory falsifiable? Does the theory make predictions that could potentially be proven wrong by evidence? Intelligent Design fails this test.

          Not to rain on your parade, but while ID in general does fail the test of falsifiability, your assertion that you can objectively determine if a theory is scientific by determining if it is falsifiable isn't in line with the ideas of many modern philosophers of science. It's mainly Karl Popper's idea, who rejected inductive reasoning (which is a hallmark of scientific thinking).

          I'm no philosopher, so I might be doing a poor job of explaining this, but it might be worth to take a look at the Wikipedia art [wikipedia.org]

      • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:19PM (#22637574) Homepage Journal
        The courts have clearly stated that ID is not scientific.
    • As my ID pushing narrow minded coworker said:
      "The Bible IS science."

      I shit you not.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        As my ID pushing narrow minded coworker said: "The Bible IS science."
        So your co-worker claims that any part of The Bible which conflicts with observable evidence can be rejected?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sm62704 (957197)
      I didn't actually RTFA or anything, but

      'Every public school teacher in the state's K-12 school system shall have the affirmative right and freedom to objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in connection with teaching any prescribed curriculum regarding chemical or biological origins

      doesn't sound to me like they can say any damned thing they please. Although I believe that evolution is God's tool (in a sense, ID) i

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TubeSteak (669689)

        I didn't actually RTFA or anything, but... I just can't see why, from the info in the summary, anyone thinks that this legalizes teaching ID or creationism.

        Well, (A) this is Florida and (B)* you have to think of how someone would try to abuse a literal reading of the proposed law.

        Once you RTFA, it's obvious that the intent of the bill writer, a pro-ID think tank called the Discovery Institute, is to allow for the teaching of non-evolution 'theories'.

        *You should do this with every law

  • by krog (25663) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:07PM (#22637308) Homepage
    God willing, math teachers will be the next to be freed from the chains of having to teach facts in school.
  • retarded (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:08PM (#22637332) Homepage Journal

    They aren't thinking of the students if they teach fairy tales. Any teacher outside of a Sunday school teaching mysticism should have their teaching papers revoked.

  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:09PM (#22637354)
    Proponents of the Flying Spaghetti Monster will now be able to teach their viewpoint and will flock to Florida. Yeah!
  • science? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jmnormand (941909) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:09PM (#22637370)
    so at what point do we stop letting english and business majors decide what science teacher should be able to teach?
  • here we go again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Protonk (599901) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:13PM (#22637462) Homepage
    Creationism wrapped up in the guise of scientific knowledge and academic freedom. This is an OBVIOUS effort by members of the FL legislature to pander to religious groups. It just happens to be couched in an "academic freedom" argument. Don't buy it. It isn't value neutral and it isn't fair.

    Students already face an uphill battle in getting over unscientific hunches formed in childhood. Evolution, in its fullness, is a rejection of those hunches. This bill clouds the issue by allowing teachers to present a curriculum that plays to those hunches in order to serve as religious indoctrination. Think about some of the main "tenets" of ID: the notion that complexity cannot occur from iterated evaluations of simple rules--they claim things like the eye are "too complex" to have been formed via "random" mutation. This SOUNDS reasonable, until you realize that it is just a play on our intuition. It isn't true in the slightest. The same with the claim that animals or humans were elegantly designed. While there is what some scientists would call elegance in plenty of biological forms, their implementation shows signs of prior adaptations. It takes a lot of careful study to learn exactly how and why our endocrine system or our vascular system is imperfectly adapted let alone begin to think about how pregnancy is an imperfect adaptation. This is why ID is primed for the 8-12 crowd. Those critical thinking skill are just solidifying. There isn't a large movement to teach ID in colleges because the material would be rejected at greater rates.

    This is religious nonsense packages as science. Nothing more.
  • by DM9290 (797337) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:14PM (#22637484) Journal
    Why should teachers be obligated to teach to a curriculum to all the other subjects but not science? I say let them teach math that contradicts mathematics, grammar that contradicts english, history revised to their personal taste, imaginary geography, using non standardized mapping systems, let them teach kids the wrong organs. For example if I believe people have 3 hearts, why shouldn't I be allowed to teach that? If some teacher thinks that the solar system rotates around the earth, or that the earth is flat, or that heavier objects fall faster, well whose to say they aren't allowed to teach that? Isn't the real purpose of having a teaching job to have a platform to spread your personal views to other peoples children?

    Why stop at the subject matter? If teachers think children learn best by playing outside all day long and having no homework, well aren't the teachers the ones who are supposed to know how beast to teach? That is their life long profession isn't it? Its not like we let the teachers dictate what the current state of scientific knowledge is... oh.. wait.. that is what this bill is about isn't it?

  • Standards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:15PM (#22637500)

    ...to allow teachers the freedom to teach whatever they wish, even if it is in opposition to current standards.

    Then they're not standards anymore. That's why we have standards, so you can be guaranteed a certain level of uniformity and quality. If you don't have to follow standards then they become suggestions.

    I'd like to see these people eat a big pile of USDA Grade A beef - but with flexible standards that the stores are allowed to define as to what "USDA Grade A" actually means. Would you eat it? Hell no.

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:18PM (#22637568) Homepage
    ...teachers who elect to teach their students scientific material about homosexuality or birth control.

    Or does the bill only protect the "freedom" to teach material on certain selected sides of certain selected controversies?
  • Yes! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ADRA (37398) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:22PM (#22637634)
    The flying spaghetti monster has always sought to be taught in Florida classrooms, and thanks to some foresight by genius politicians, he can!
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:30PM (#22637808)
    Doctor: Before I give you this injection, I have to ask you an important question: do you believe in evolution?

    Patient: Of course, not! Why do you ask?

    Doctor: You see, I have this flu shot here. If you believe in evolution, you will accept that the flu bug is constantly changing and evolving, thus your immune system will not recognize it and you'll come down with the flu. With this shot, your immune system will be up to date on the latest strain.

    Patient: And if I don't believe in evolution?

    Doctor: You've already had the flu once, therefore you'll never catch it again.

    Patient: But that's not...that's not...true?

    Doctor: As a liberal and scientist, I would never want to force another person to accept my own views and beliefs, even if they happen to be manifestly correct.

    Or to put it another way:

    adventurer #1: I do not believe there is a bear in that cave.
    [mauling, violence, blood]
    adventurer #2: So you say. But your disbelief seems not to have dissuaded the bear.
  • First Amendment? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pak9rabid (1011935) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:40PM (#22638030)
    So, um...how does this comply with separation of church and state [wikipedia.org]?
  • Dear America (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent...jan...goh@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:55PM (#22638366) Homepage
    The rest of the world doesn't care that you're stupiding up your children. It just makes it easier for us to crush you scientifically. Trust me when I say that the increasingly low standards for your science education just make us feel like there are more opportunities for us. I'm sure the Chinese, Japanese and Indians feel the same. The less you know, the easier it makes it for the rest of us to make stuff and sell it to you.

    Thanks,

    The Rest of the World (specifically those of us teaching our children proper scientific theory)
  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday March 04, 2008 @01:57PM (#22638432) Homepage
    I can't tell you what a progressive move this is for supporters of the movement for the recognition of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a religion! And if this bill passes, it will open the door for its truth to be taught in schools!

    Please write your representatives to THANK them for opening the door for this wonderful moment in history!

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