March 05, 2008

Florida Creationists Gearing Up for Legislative Attempt

Having lost in their efforts to have Florida's education curriculum to include provisions allowing for the teaching of Creationism in the state's public schools, Creationists are taking a new tack. Right-wing harpy Ronda Storms has introduced a bill based on Dennis Baxley's "Academic Freedom" verbiage to the Florida legislature. If approved and signed into law, the legislation would allow the teaching of "alternative theories" disguised as criticism of evolutionary biology by any teacher who was personally opposed to supported science.

For those without experience of Storms during her tenure on the County Board of Commissioners in Hillsborough County, this is the same woman who once fought to have a public access television show pulled off the air because it said derogatory things about her. When that failed, she tried to have funding for public access removed from the local budget. This is also the same woman who swooped in on Tampa's public library when it exhibited books that were positive toward gay people and who introduced laws to prevent gay pride parades from taking place in her county. She's a hardcore fundamentalist and, as we'll see in a moment, yet another member of the Florida Baptist Convention, the leading group in attempts to prevent modern education regarding biology from being taught in the state.

Storms' Evolution Bill Lets Teachers Contradict Theory

Photo by Colin Hackley, Tampa TribuneFlorida Sen. Ronda Storms, a Republican from Valrico, is taking on the theory of evolution.

On Friday she introduced an Academic Freedom Act designed to tweak the state's recently adopted educational standard that calls for science teachers to teach evolution.

Storms said the new bill merely says teachers should have the freedom to teach what they want, including theories that may contradict the prevalent theories of biological and chemical evolution. The bill does not mention creationism or intelligent design.

The basis of her bill came from activists who failed in February to persuade the state Board of Education to allow the leeway...

The bill, in part, says that if teachers wish to present a teaching plan that doesn't conform to state standards regarding chemical and biological evolution, they could be sanctioned and that the Legislature should adopt measures to protect them...
This would be a first in the annals of education — instituting standards and then allowing teachers to ignore them based on whatever that particular teacher thought was an alternative scientific theory. Luckily, it seems unlikely that the bill will become law, as noted in this article:
...Schools and Learning Council Chairman Joe Pickens, R-Palatka, said Monday he doubts that [there would be sufficient votes to pass this bill in the legislature].

"The state Board of Education held public hearings; it's their job to do what they did," he said. "My expectation is that there isn't a great deal of appetite to go in and undo what the state Board of Education did in their purview, under their authority."
Surely, we've reached a point now where anyone with a working pair of eyes can see that these efforts are religiously motivated and are particularly connected to one religious group:
Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, has filed SB 2692, the “Academic Freedom Act,” which provides public school teachers and students rights regarding scientific views about chemical and biological evolution. Storms is a member of First Baptist Church in Brandon...

Storms said Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, a member of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, will co-sponsor the bill, and Rep. D. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, a member of First Baptist Church in Umatilla, will ponsor [sic] a companion bill in the Florida House.

Florida Baptist Witness, 3/4/08

This is the same state legislature that is now proposing well over $90 million in cuts to Florida's institutions of higher learning for the next fiscal year — about 20% of all of the budget cuts being made. Both educationally and financially, the state's conservative-dominated, religiously-motivated legislature is rapidly turning Florida into a ghetto in every sense of the word. I wonder when and if enough voters down there will wise up enough to realize what's happening and get these people out of office. Or perhaps they want to keep going down this path?

Time will tell.

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