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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Florida Follow-Up (Orlando Public Hearing Update)

More than 70 people—including professors, elected officials, parents, and students–spoke at the last public hearing on Florida's proposed new science standards, a meeting that went on for five hours. While the speakers were split between those for and against the revised standards, more than half, about 45, were opposed, wanting to see evolution taught as a "theory"—and, in some cases, "balanced" with alternative explanations of life's origins that are religious (creationism and "intelligent design"). School boards in 11 of Florida's 64 counties (Polk County not among them) have passed formal, though nonbinding, resolutions against the standards, which use the term "evolution" and explicitly require that it be taught. The resolutions call for evolution to be taught as a "theory," with strengths and weaknesses, rather than as fact. In the scientific community, there is no controversy, however—the consensus is that evolution only should be taught in the science classroom—and the committee that drafted the standards released its own statement yesterday, stating that there is "no longer any valid criticism of the theory of evolution" and worrying that Florida will portray an "image of a backward state." Florida's Department of Education will vote on the new standards a week from today, and the outcome could affect other states like Texas, which will update its own science standards this year. —Heather Wax