April 28, 2008
Florida's Evolving Bill
Senate and House legislators are running out of time to pinpoint parameters of Evolution Academic Freedom Act.
Florida's news outlets are abuzz again with the latest developments in the state's attempt to pinpoint guidelines for science education in public classrooms. This morning the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill 71?43 that requires public school teachers to offer "a thorough presentation and scientific critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution," more obtuse wording than that approved by Florida's Senate last Wednesday.
The Senate's bill, called the "Evolution Academic Freedom Act," was spearheaded by Sen. Ronda Storms and aimed at granting educators the right to present scientifically grounded alternatives to evolution, along with protecting them from disciplinary action for doing so. The bill borrows largely from an academic freedom bill drafted by the Discovery Institute, the leading research center on intelligent design, and focuses on teachers' First Amendment rights.
Proponents of both bills repeatedly stated that the legislation does not allow creationism or intelligent design to be taught in classrooms, and that neither bill includes religious language.
Florida legislators have until this Friday to come to agreement on the bill's wording. Considering the House's agreed-upon wording was already rejected by the Senate in earlier hearings, it remains dubious whether the legislators will be able to pass a bill at all.
Florida's debate over evolution began last October, when the State Board of Education adopted new science education standards that identified evolution as the "fundamental concept" underlying biology. Before the new standards, the Board of Education's statewide curriculum did not include the word evolution.