The Associated Press issued a story today about the new Instructional Materials bill approved by our Florida legislature and signed by our governor earlier this year: New Florida law expected to increase conflict over textbooks. Reporter Terry Spencer took on the massive task of asking every Florida school district for records of any textbook challenges so far. A few have popped up, such as:
In Nassau County, north of Jacksonville, a resident challenged the teaching of evolution, arguing that life was created and perhaps planted by space aliens. No hearing has been held.
I already wrote about this (Nassau County complaint: “stop promoting this scientifically inadequate theory of evolution as fact to our students”), but I think the reporter is wrong about one thing. I believe a hearing was held earlier this month. I’m waiting for a reply to a public records request I had submitted to confirm that. And this Tampa Bay Time Gradebook Blog post says that a hearing was held: Pro-science group warns of textbook challenge in Nassau County schools:
Ray Poole, the Nassau district’s legal counsel, told the Gradebook on Wednesday that an independent local attorney recently conducted a hearing on the book challenge and is preparing a summary to present to the School Board.
Another science-related complaint the AP reporter found:
In Brevard County, home of the Kennedy Space Center, a Citizens’ Alliance couple filed challenges against elementary school social studies textbooks, alleging each has dozens of inaccuracies. They say authors frequently ignore American exceptionalism and the books’ assertion that global warming is caused by human activity is “blatant indoctrination.” The district says no changes were made.
I’ll need to look into that one. If I can get my hands on that complaint, I’ll share it. And did a hearing lead to the “no changes” determination or was there no hearing? Is there anyone in Brevard County who would like to help track this down?
Also of note is yet another instance on the record of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance protesting against established science:
The Florida Citizens’ Alliance, a conservative group, pushed for the change, arguing that many districts ignored challenges or heard them with stacked committees, and didn’t consider residents who don’t have children in the schools. […] They also don’t believe evolution and global warming should be taught without students hearing counterarguments.
And I’m happy with my rather bold response:
Brandon Haught, spokesman for Florida Citizens for Science, which opposed the bill, said his group is prepared to fight any challenges made against the teaching of evolution and climate change, which nearly all biologists and climatologists agree are proven facts. Haught, a high school environmental science teacher, said he is surprised social studies and English teachers have not formed similar coalitions to defend their courses.
“The alliance is pushing their narrow ideology on the public schools in any way they can and so far they’re meeting with success. I can’t speak for the other academic subjects they’re targeting, but I know beyond a doubt that their ideology when it comes to science is grossly ignorant and doesn’t belong anywhere near a classroom,” Haught said.
Meanwhile in Marion County …
And now is a good time to report on an issue in Marion County I brought up Nov. 10. In a news story about Marion County’s decision to review and approve instructional materials on their own rather rely on a state-approved list was this: Superintendent Dr. Heidi “Maier was receiving complaints about the district’s science and history books …” I sent a public records request to Marion County asking for copies of those complaints. Their response was that there were none. I then asked them why Dr. Maier mentioned the complaints and the response I got back was: “In speaking with three different departments, including our superintendent, we have received various informal complaints via verbal communications; however, no formal written complaints have been submitted nor exist on file within your stated timeframe.”