Few rational people would argue that evolutionary biology and climate change should be taught in parallel with “intelligent design” and climate denialism. Teaching about them is fine, but elevating them to the same level of scientific renown as the former theories is not just disingenuous, but dangerous.
Unfortunately, thanks to a new piece of legislation in Florida, any single person in the Sunshine State can challenge what children learn in public schools. Although the legal text implies challenges can be made in any regard – including pro-science challenges to schools that are attempting to muddy the waters – realistically, this now means that there will be renewed attempts to get creationism into the science classes.
The law requires school boards to take on an “unbiased hearing officer”, a worryingly euphemistic job title. Their job will be to listen to the complaints, which can be made by any state resident even if they do not have a child in school at the time. If the complaints are upheld, this hearing officer will demand the school in question alters its curriculum.
The law was passed by the Florida House of Representatives, before being signed by Republican Governor and Trump acolyte Rick Scott, a climate change denier that famously used the phrase “I’m not a scientist” to explain why he couldn’t explain why he denied the basic science behind the phenomenon.
Although the bill doesn’t explicitly target science or any subject, in particular, experts have noticed that written statements used in court during the discussion of the bill have specifically aimed their crosshairs at climate change and evolution.
The National Center for Science Education, a non-profit organization that aims to inform the press and public on the teaching of both subjects at school, pointed out that several residents' complaints thought it was wrong to teach these as “reality.”
Apart from these scientific subjects, some residents are concerned that the classical texts used to teach children about the world are too dystopian. Instead of teaching their kids proud American values, they worry that they are being exposed to “socialist, Marxist, apocalyptic [and] anarchic” material too often. One complainant describes this as “borderline child abuse.”
There is nothing wrong with people wanting a say in their state’s education, but this bill is clearly driven by subjective personal beliefs, and is strongly flavored with anti-scientific rhetoric. It’s a back door, “grassroots” method for removing key scientific concepts from the curriculum and taking out “offending” books from the school libraries.
It’s a shield of ignorance for Florida’s children, plain and simple.
[H/T: Washington Post]