School Official Opposes Evolution Standards Plan
School Official Opposes Evolution Standards PlanBy John Chambliss - Education Reporter - The Ledger (Lakeland FL) - Tue, Nov 13, 2007LAKELAND | A Polk County School Board member said Monday she wants the district to consider opposing proposed new science standards for Florida schools that would include specific mention of evolution for the first time.
The proposed standards intended to strengthen science education in Florida have widespread backing from the scientific community and have generated limited opposition statewide. However, Polk board member Kay Fields objects to the portion of the standards that includes evolution, and she said she will talk with Superintendent Gail McKinzie this week about possible action the district can take.
"There needs to be intelligent design as well," Fields said. "You need to show both sides."
Fields said she's only received one phone call from a parent opposed to the new standards. The mother of two children who attend Polk schools told Fields she favored teaching intelligent design.
Response to the proposed standards has been generally favorable if a state Department of Education Web site seeking public comment is an indication.
As of Nov. 5, at least 70 percent of more than 4,000 people who rated the state standards at the Web site - www.flstandards.org - endorsed the new standards. The Web site lets people rate changes for each of the new science benchmarks, said Jonathan Smith, a Lakeland resident and a representative of the National Center for Science Education. Science teachers or science administrators accounted for the 3,076 of the comments.
About two-thirds of the comments left on the site were related to evolution, Smith said.
Smith's group supports the proposed standards and says there is overwhelming support in the scientific community for teaching evolution, while the idea of intelligent design is not scientifically valid.
Evolution is only a part of the new science standards, which were re-written to bolster science education in Florida. The proposed standards list evolution and biological diversity as one of the "big ideas" in which science education should be grounded.
Current state standards do not use the word evolution, preferring the term "biological changes over time." They will, if the standards are adopted by the state Board of Education in January.
Evolutionary science says life, including plants, animals and humans, developed through a series of small changes over a long period of time. The theory conflicts with the biblical interpretation of the Earth's creation and is strongly opposed by many conservative Christians.
The new standards do not include intelligent design, the idea that life began as a result of an intelligent force or being.
People have had limited opportunity to voice their opinions to state officials in person. Two meetings about the new standards were canceled.
The second and last meeting for the public to attend will be on Thursday in Orlando.
At the first meeting Saturday in Tallahassee, Wakulla County Board member Greg Thomas spoke out against the new standards.
"This will run afoul of many students and teachers," Thomas said Monday. "When I was taught this in public schools it was Darwin's theory of evolution."
Thomas called the changes "radical" and recommended the state continue to use the current standards.
Some others at the meeting approved of the changes.
A 45-member committee appointed by the state Department of Education began revising the science standards in May in response to a 2005 report on Florida's public school science curriculum by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit group.
The Fordham study said Florida's standards are "sorely lacking in content" and that life sciences and evolution are given "shorter shrift than any of the other" science topics.
[ John Chambliss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7588. ]