For nearly a century, Florida has been a key battleground for the teaching of evolution in public schools. Before he successfully prosecuted Tennessee teacher John Scopes in the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, William Jennings Bryan was a prominent anti-evolution agitator in Florida. More than ninety years later, tensions still run high on both sides of the issue, erupting regularly and sometimes spectacularly.
Florida is a bellwether in the creationism vs. evolution debate because it reflects the makeup of the country as a whole. With its lively mix of young and old, liberal and conservative, rich and poor, Florida is an agglomeration of national opinions; more purple than red or blue. Brandon Haught tells the riveting story of the intense battles over teaching evolution in Florida, revealing how not just this state, but the entire country has been Going Ape over this hot-button issue.
These seemingly ceaseless battles feature some of the most colorful culture warriors imaginable: a real estate tycoon throwing his fortune into campaigns in Miami; lawmakers attempting to insert the mandatory teaching of creationism into bills; and pastors and school board members squabbling in front of the national media that invariably descends on their small town. Yet the majority of participants have been average people, and Haught expertly portrays the sense of moral duty that drives their passions, regardless of their position on the issue.
Personally involved in the Florida evolution dispute since 2006 as a founding board member of Florida Citizens for Science, Haught is uniquely poised to present this dramatic conflict from an insider’s point-of-view. His eye for rich detail enlivens this engrossing saga as it stretches across the decades of the twentieth century and into the present. Given a social climate where the teaching of evolution continues to sharply divide neighbors and communities, Going Ape is a must-read for anyone concerned with the future of public education.
Read a free excerpt: Chapter 1, “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” at the National Center for Science Education website.
Order Going Ape: Florida’s Battles over Evolution in the Classroom
Below is a timeline of events covered in Going Ape. I will be adding my research material — audio/video recordings, school board meeting minutes, lessons plans, etc. — to this timeline to supplement the book. For instance, you will be able to read about a meeting in the book and then come here to view the whole source video. It will take time to get all of this material uploaded, so please check my blog for updates.
- William Jennings Bryan makes Florida his legal residence.
- Southern Baptist convention meets in Jacksonville, wants science textbooks “free from erroneous statements on evolution.”
- Legislature passes resolution condemning the teaching of evolution.
- Legislature tries to impose legal restrictions on teaching of evolution, but effort dies in education committee.
- Bible Crusaders of America forms and appeals to governor and state education superintendent to ban evolution textbooks, succeeding in having books changed.
- [The Scopes Trial, Tennessee.]
- Florida Purity League forms and targets supposed heretical books found at the Florida State College for Women.
- Florida Education Association issues resolution against any potential anti-evolution bills.
- Bill prohibiting teaching of evolution causes major fight in legislature but fails to pass, however resolution to form textbook review committee passes.
- Combined efforts of Florida Purity League and Senate committee try to ban textbooks, successfully forcing college campuses to put textbooks in restricted areas of library.
- Three out of four gubernatorial candidates advocate anti-evolution. Pro-evolution candidate wins.
- Amendment to textbook selection bill tries to prohibit books that promote evolution. Amendment does not pass.
- Anti-evolution bill filed and sent to judicial committee where it dies.
- Department of Education produces “A Brief Guide to The Teaching of Science in the Secondary Schools.” It has a chapter on “The Book of Genesis, and Science.” This publication is scanned in and available for viewing at the University of Florida Digital Collection.
- Florida Board of Education unanimously approves the publication of “A Guide: Teaching Moral and Spiritual Values in Florida Schools.” This publication is scanned in and available for viewing at the University of Florida Digital Collection.
- Dade County schools use new Biological Sciences Curriculum Study textbooks (after Soviets launch Sputnik). Rev. David Berg protests and threatens to sue.
- [Epperson v. Arkansas, the Supreme Court struck down an Arkansas statute that banned the teaching of evolution but did not explicitly mention the Biblical account of the origins of life.]
- Pinellas County School Board signs retired Reverend C.E. Winslow’s “The Bible and Evolution – The Winslow Resolution.”
- Evolution bill would “require in the teaching of evolution the reading of appropriate religious passages dealing with creation and evolution including, but not limited to, chapters one and two of Genesis.” Bill dies.
- Debate in Tampa featuring Gish & Morris vs. Betz & Kessler.
- Winslow’s Committee for Creationism in Education sponsors talk by Harold Slusher from the Institute of Creation Research.
- Winslow donates book “Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity” to Pinellas County School Board.
- Shirley Correll protests adoption of textbooks that promote “perversion.” (Referenced in Chapter 4)
- Winslow’s “American Basics Counsel” asks Manatee County School Board to pass resolution on teaching both creation and evolution. They pass it unanimously.
- Evolution bill introducing scientific creationism filed but dies.
- Winslow now heads the “Compatriots for Academic/Religious Freedom” and approaches the Hillsborough County, Manatee County and Pinellas County School Boards.
- Hillsborough County School Board mandates the teaching of scientific creationism. Committees are formed to create a lesson plan.
- Compatriots for Academic Freedom resolution (pdf).
- Compatriots for Academic Freedom presentation (pdf). Document was quoted on page 37 of Going Ape.
- Florida Foundation of Future Scientists letter (pdf).
- Letter from Tampa Jewish Federation (pdf). Letter was referenced on page 43 of Going Ape.
- Florida Association of Science Supervisors letter (pdf). Letter was referenced on page 43 of Going Ape.
- “Balanced Treatment for Scientific Creationism and Evolution Act” introduced in legislature, but dies.
- Manatee County School Board agrees to include in its biology curriculum both creation and evolution.
- Pinellas County School Board votes against scientific creationism, but Board Chairman directs the superintendent to study the issue anyway. Superintendent puts it off and never actually follows up.
- Correll delays state textbook approvals but books are later approved. (Referenced in Chapter 4)
- Volusia teachers watch Institute for Creation Research presentation.
- Volusia Association of Science Teachers opposes proposed creationism state legislation.
- Pasco County School Board approached about scientific creationism, but board puts off decision. Board later approached about putting creationist books in library.
- Pinellas County School Board considers issue of scientific creationism again, but decides to maintain their current policy of allowing science teachers to present scientific creationism if they want to, but not requiring it.
- Scientific creationism bill filed in legislature again, but dies.
- Manatee County School Board kills policy to include creationism that it had approved the previous year.
- Newspaper accounts show that groups in Polk and Marion Counties are interested in creationism, but they never officially ask for it. Gilchrist meeting minutes also mention creationism, but don’t go into any detail.
- Hillsborough County creates creationism curriculum.
- Newspaper ad by Concerned Citizens of Hillsborough County (pdf).
- Timeline for writing Hillsborough’s creation-evolution curriculum (pdf).
- Letter from National Association of Biology Teachers to Hillsborough County Supervisor Secondary Science (pdf). Letter was quoted on page 57 of Going Ape.
- Proposed goals for Hillsborough’s creation-evolution curriculum (pdf).
- Approved guidelines & goals for Hillsborough’s creation-evolution curriculum (pdf). Document was quoted on page 59 of Going Ape.
- Dissent letter about guidelines for Hillsborough’s creation-evolution curriculum (pdf). Letter was quoted on page 60 of Going Ape.
- Multiple drafts of scientific creationism section of curriculum (pdf, large document). This document shows the many edits the scientific creationism portion of the curriculum went through.
- Draft of Hillsborough’s creation-evolution curriculum (pdf, large document). Document was quoted and referenced on pages 63-65 of Going Ape.
- Final curriculum script (pdf) and final curriculum slides (pdf). These are the script and slides that would have been presented to students.
- Okaloosa County considers creationism, but then drops it.
- [Modern-day “Scopes Monkey Trial” in California.]
- [McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education. The Arkansas statute requiring public schools to give balanced treatment to “creation-science” and “evolution-science” was ruled unconstitutional by a United States federal court.]
- Hillsborough County School Board drops scientific creationism curriculum just before pilot program was to start.
- Manatee County again considers creationism, but after debate decides against it.
- Gov. Bob Graham joins national effort to improve content of textbooks.
- Gov. Graham delays some textbook adoptions due to protests concerning evolution by Correll and others. But books were later approved.
- James Brady and other residents protest to the Escambia County School Board about science textbooks that include evolution. Residents want to give creationist handouts to students, but school board turns them down.
- All four Republicans running for governor say they believe that creationism should be taught along with evolution in public schools.
- Creationism/Evolution is an issue in Palm Beach County and Broward County school board races and state senator race.
- [Edwards v. Aguillard, the Supreme Court in a 7-to-2 ruling held unconstitutional a 1981 Louisiana law that required any public school teaching the theory of evolution to also teach creationism as science.]
- Gov. Bob Martinez approves biology textbook adoptions over protests.
- Residents protest to the Escambia County School Board use of Carl Sagan book and propose that students be excused from evolution lessons. Board rejects both requests in early 1988.
- A Broward County biology teacher is reprimanded for teaching creationism with unauthorized materials.
- Citizens for Scientific Integrity formed in Fort Lauderdale.
- Tom DeRosa founds Creation Studies Institute in Fort Lauderdale. (Referenced in Chapter 7)
- Winslow with National “Task Force for Academic Freedom” approaches Manatee County several times.
- Creationist Kent Hovind founds Creation Science Evangelism ministry. (Referenced in Chapter 7)
- Pinellas County School Board rejects the book Of Pandas and People pushed by Winslow. One of the book’s authors is Percival Davis, a professor at Hillsborough County Community College.
- Creationism becomes big issue in gubernatorial race between Bob Martinez and Lawton Chiles.
- Winslow approaches Manatee County School Board about Of Pandas and People.
- Lake County School Board considers teaching creationism in schools, but after significant public debate, rejects it.
Below is a recording of the 03/26/1991 Lake County School Board Meeting. This is when Bob Wells approached the school board for the first time to ask for creationism to be taught. There is a blank spot between the introduction at the beginning and when Mr. Wells speaks as I had deleted all the other unrelated school board business.
- Manatee County Ministerial Association wants Of Pandas and People in Florida schools.
- Efforts to introduce creationism in Volusia County go on quietly behind the scenes.
- Grady McMurtry founds Creation Worldview Ministries in Orlando.
- Debate event in Manatee County between creationist Duane Gish and University of South Florida professor Lorena Madrigal.
- University of South Florida professors protest Manatee County teachers getting credit to attend creationism workshop.
- Winslow once again approaches Manatee County, and a frustrated school board discusses what to do about Winslow’s frequent requests. (Referenced in Chapter 5)
- Parents request the Osceola County School Board allow the teaching of creationism. Board turns them down.
- Florida Baptist Convention cuts off funding to Stetson University in part due to omission of creationism in curriculum.
- House resolution recognizing creationism as a choice is introduced, but goes nowhere.
- Creationism becomes issue in Pinellas County, Palm Beach County, Hardee County and Lake County school board elections.
- St. Lucie County School Board considers using Of Pandas and People and teaching creationism as advocated by the Civic, Business and Ministry Coalition. Superintendent David Mosrie gets into trouble for meeting with the Coalition without the Board knowing. Mosrie says creationism is OK to teach but shouldn’t be mandated.
- State education commissioner Frank Brogan says he is OK with local school boards allowing creationism.
- New state science standards approved without mention of evolution.
- Lee County School Board considers teaching Bible classes and including creationism.
- Answers in Genesis hosts three-day seminar. (Referenced in Chapter 7)
- Manatee County School Board again considers creationism. Rev. Gary Byram and school board member Frank Brunner support the effort. They sponsor local creationist seminars by Hovind. Creationism is never approved, though.
- State voucher programs created. They allow state funds to go to private schools that teach creationism.
- Creationism becomes issue in Manatee County School Board elections.
- Thomas B. Fordham Foundation gives Florida’s science standards an F grade.
- Hovind opens Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola. (Referenced in Chapter 7)
- [Kitzmiller v. Dover. A Federal District Court, found “intelligent design” to be a form of creationism, and therefore, unconstitutional to teach in American public schools.]
- Cheri Pierson Yecke, who was accused of waging a stealth campaign to allow the teaching of creationism in Minnesota schools, becomes Florida K-12 chancellor.
- Academic freedom bill filed by Rep. Dennis Baxley would create a statewide college “bill of rights” to protect conservative students from “biased” liberal professors. Bill dies.
- Creationism becomes issue as state approves textbooks and schools districts decide what biology textbooks to adopt.
- Marion County schools include intelligent design book and DVD in their libraries.
- Newspaper articles start discussing whether creationism will become an issue in the upcoming state science standards revision process. Gov. Jeb Bush says that evolution should remain unnamed in the new standards.
- Thomas B. Fordham Foundation gives Florida’s science standards an F again.
- Scheduled revision of state science standards is postponed.
- Florida Citizens for Science formed.
- Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity formed. They host a seminar in Clearwater featuring creationists Michael Behe, Ralph Seelke and Jonathan Wells.
- Draft of new state science standards is released for public input. First public hearings are held, and a few county school boards oppose evolution in the standards.
- Fight over evolution in the new state standards flares at more public hearings. [Watch videos on YouTube of public hearings in Orlando on Feb. 11, 2008: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.] Several school boards pass resolutions against evolution. Modified version of standards with “theory of” added is approved by Board of Education.
- Academic Freedom bills are filed in the Legislature to allow teachers to include theories other than evolution in the classroom. Actor Ben Stein promotes his film “Expelled.” Bills make it through all committees but die when different House and Senate versions aren’t reconciled.
- Academic Freedom bill filed in Legislature, but dies without ever being considered.
- Hillsborough County school district hosts a “controversial issues workshop” with the objective of helping teachers deal with opposition to evolution.
- Creationism becomes an issue during the St. Petersburg mayoral election.
- Creationism is a minor issue in Pinellas County, Alachua County, Seminole County, Pasco County, Palm Beach County, Polk County, and Hillsborough County School Board elections.
- Minor controversy over textbook approval committees looking at creationist passages in Life on an Ocean Planet.
- Academic Freedom bill filed in Legislature, but dies without ever being considered.
- Kenny Merriken begins protesting to the Columbia County School Board about the teaching of evolution. Hear one of Merriken’s speeches from 1/10/2012 here: