Public to comment on evolution
Published: Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 1:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 1:22 p.m.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida public school educators are considering revisions in state science standards that would substitute the word evolution for "biological changes over time," a subject sure to cause intense debate Thursday at a public hearing.
Supporters and opponents of the new standards will discuss them a month before the State Board of Education votes on the guidelines Feb. 19. The rules also would require more in-depth teaching of evolution and other scientific topics while setting specific benchmarks for students to meet.
The pending changes have drawn a flood of public comment — pro and con — and are part of the national debate over how evolution should be taught. A Gallup poll released in June said the country is about evenly split over whether evolution is true, despite decades of overwhelming scientific evidence that it is.
Some people say they oppose the teaching of evolution or want schools to also teach religious ideas of creationism or intelligent design to explain the origins of life. Supporters say evidence for evolution is incontrovertible and that it does not conflict with religious beliefs.
Advocates say the standard changes are needed to improve Florida's poor performance in science and prepare students to compete on a global level. The new standards are based on those in other states and nations considered leaders in teaching science.
In 2005, the Fordham Institute, a Washington-based education group, gave the current standards an F, saying they are "sorely lacking in content." Florida students also score below the national average on college entrance tests and the gap has widened in recent years.
The present standards have been criticized for being "a mile wide and an inch deep," covering too many topics for students to fully understand them, education officials say. The new ones would be narrower but deeper.
More changes to the standards developed by two committees of scientists, educators and citizens may be made when the panels meet Jan. 9-11 in Tallahassee. The next public hearing is Tuesday in Miramar.
Board chairman T. Willard Fair, who heads the Urban League of Greater Miami, said he's never received more correspondence on a single issue, but he declined to discuss his views.
The teaching of evolution has been a hot topic in the United States for more than 80 years.
In the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, teacher John Scopes was convicted of violating Tennessee's evolution ban although the verdict was overturned on a technicality. Courts, though, later ruled evolution could be taught.
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