Creationism in voucher-accepting schools

science experiment

(The following post is a copy of what I published on the Florida Citizens for Science blog today)

The Palm Beach Post published a Q & A session with representatives of Step Up for Students about Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program: Accountability next debate for private vouchers

I want to emphasize that Florida Citizens for Science as an organization doesn’t get directly involved in the voucher debate. Some people think vouchers are good and some people think vouchers are bad, but that’s not a debate we are going to get into. It’s not really in our mission.

But when it comes to science education in voucher accepting schools, we do take a stand. There needs to be some form of accountability, especially in the religion-based schools that teach some form of creationism. Quite a while ago I posted about at least “163 voucher accepting public schools in Florida that use creationist materials or boldly state that they teach anti-science.”

In the Post Q & A I’m happy to see science addressed. First, it’s clear that there is no accountability in the voucher accepting schools when it comes to science:

POST: Are these kids getting standardized tests on things other than reading and math?

EAST: They are not. They are getting history and science, yes. But not being tested.

I’m happy to see the question of creationism is posed:

POST: Are they being taught evolution versus creationism at the religious schools? Is that being asked by SUFS? Are there standards based on their curriculum?

But a big journalistic mistake is to ask a list of questions at once instead of just one at a time. That lets the interview subject pick which question to answer. Notice that Jon East doesn’t bother answering the creationism question. He just answers the last question about standards.

EAST: There are not. The teachers do not have to be certified. The schools do not have to be accredited.

The next question allows East to steer right into the same old unsatisfactory answer that’s been given over and over again for the past several years.

POST: Is that a gap or hole in the program that needs to be filled? What about accountability?

EAST: Accountability isn’t just regulation. Accountability also comes with choice. When a parent can decide whether or not he or she wants to leave a school because their kid may or may not be learning, there’s accountability there too.

Supposedly, parents will hold a school accountable by switching if the school isn’t meeting the parents’ expectations. What is never addressed is what to do when parents actually want bad education? Should something be done in the case of parents wanting their children to learn horribly wrong science? If state money in the form of vouchers or Scholarship Programs is going to anti-science instruction, shouldn’t the state and/or taxpayers stomp on the brakes?

We think so.