Reporting on Clay County and St Johns County

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One of our visitors (DC) left a description of what happened in Clay County. Keep those reports coming. On a somewhat more somber note, rumors have it that “some folks may have been receiving threats and personal attacks”.

Such attacks and threats are not only illegal but also very counter productive. I hope that those people reading PT can focus on the scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design, the fact that many ID proponents agree that ID does not provide an alternative theory and the fact that many of these people seem to be confused by the meaning of such terminologies as theory and fact. Educate not alienate…

DC Wrote:

The Clay County School Board just approved a modified form of the resolution by a vote of 5-0. 22 of the 27 speakers at the meeting opposed the resolution and they covered pretty much all the bases. Some were quite eloquent, including several retired pastors. The five supporters said nothing we hadn’t heard before although the word dogma and its variants showed up a lot when referring to Darwinism. Two (Including a teacher at my own school. Sigh.) emphasized teaching all the “facts” and letting students decide. I was surprised that the local churches didn’t try to pack the meeting room until someone pointed out that this didn’t start to get publicity until after last Sunday’s services.

The resolution that passed had two, maybe three significant wording changes made. In paragraph two, the word “fact” at the end of the last line was changed to “theory.” The new line reads, “…direct the Florida Department of Education to revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is clarified as a theory.” The last paragraph was also modified so that the last phrase reads, “…revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science such that evolution is designated as a theory.” I think they also voted to change the word “concept” in the standard to theory (nobody on the board was too sure of what the difference was, the lawyer for the board wouldn’t say anything without first looking it up in a dictionary, and nobody wanted to ask the two actual standards writers in the audience what the difference might mean.) It was all reminiscent of Bacon’s tale of the monks trying to figure out how many teeth a horse has with none of them willing to just look in its mouth and count. I’m pretty sure they made the change but it was getting late. One of the board members said we wouldn’t have spent two hours discussing the resolution if evolution was a fact.

I wasn’t surprised that the resolution passed but I was dumbfounded when a board member asked about the origins of the resolution, who wrote it and who brought it to the board, and our superintendent, David Owens said he was responsible for, “all of the above.” He said later that he worked with Paula Barton to write and distribute it. A couple of us are working to get a copy of the recording of the meeting (video and audio). Earlier in the meeting Owens said that everybody in the room was obviously passionate about their ideas and beliefs. He asked how many concepts in science changed over the years when the information changed? How did we know evolution wouldn’t do likewise. We shouldn’t be so dogmatic about this.

We should pass this resolution because it reflects our beliefs. Beliefs equals experimental data. No wonder we have such low science scores down here.

The attorney for the board said that the resolution came as close as possible to violating the Kitzmiller decision without actually crossing the line. The board members were, I think, voting on this as a CYA thing and at least three of them said it wouldn’t make a difference with the state BOE anyway. Maybe if we start good science education now we can have more scientifically literate adults on school boards in the future.

On Florida Citizens for Science we read about St Johns County

Florida Citizens for Science member Kristine Hoppenworth attended the St. Johns County school board meeting during which the board approved an anti-evolution resolution. Here is Kristine’s report:

————————

Hello! I attended the St. Johns School Board Meeting last night in St. Augustine at 6 pm. Although the resolution wasn’t on the agenda, it was added at the beginning of the meeting as the last resolution, CR 6, to be presented. Before CR 6, the audience was packed because this meeting also included recognition of Teachers of the Year, Retirees, etc. By 7:20, the final ceremony, listed as CR 5, was complete. The board called for a short break in which the room emptied out. This break could have come after CR 6, which was the last resolution on the agenda for this section of the meeting, but they chose to place the break before they got to this important matter.

At 7:30, the issue was introduced as follows, to a handful or audience members:

“This Resolution urges the State Board of Education to direct the Florida Department of Education to review the new Sunshine State Standards for Science to allow for balanced, objective, and intellectually open instruction in regards to evolution, teaching the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory rather than teaching evolution as dogmatic fact.”

The resolution was then read. [Copy can be seen here.]

Tommy Allen, District 2 board member, talked for about 6 minutes before members of the public were invited to speak. He explained that he was taught both evolution and other theories in school, and he found that another theory, that of a grand clock-winder, stood out to him. He explained that it was impossible that “things could just happen” and that when he gardens, he never plants a seed for it to grow into a different type of plant than it should. He wants the standards to include other theories which are “just as logically likely”.

From the public, Faye Armitage spoke, worried about science being watered down and about the attempt to insert Christianity into public schools under the guise of teaching the controversy.

Kim Kendall was next, and gave practically the same talk that she did at the Jacksonville meeting. She agrees with everyone, but she wants evolution taught with its flaws. She states that over 700 scientists discredit evolution (counting the hits, ignoring the thousands of misses). She gave her anecdote about her son coming home from school to tell her that scientists “discovered” that Pluto was not really a planet after all, as she was taught. Despite this being a gross misunderstanding of what happened with Pluto, I think she means to use it as an example that evolution is just another old piece of misinformation hanging around which needs to be updated. She emphasizes academic freedom (as science without “blinders”) and not religion, but the most current scientific research.

Niki Abate spoke next, and pointed out that science is happy to accommodate theories supported by scientific data, but that ID has failed to publish one peer-reviewed article. She counted the misses that Kim Kendall left out, and also restated that the idea of academic freedom was simply being used as camouflage. She concluded by leaving “other theories” to be included not in the science curriculum, but instead in philosophy or religion classes.

After these speakers, the board voted, and the result was an immediate, in-unison, unanimous “Aye.”

And that’s that.

—————————-

Our sincere appreciation to Kristine for attending and reporting. Also, thanks to Faye Armitage for providing to us a copy of the resolution.

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[Post Revised] According to one story: After a public hearing Thursday evening to discuss a possible change in the way science courses are taught in public schools, the Clay County [Florida] School Board voted unanimously to support a change in... Read More

15 Comments

On a somewhat more somber note, rumors have it that “some folks may have been receiving threats and personal attacks”.

Such attacks and threats are not only illegal but also very counter productive.

Got that right. As PvM says, “threats are not only illegal but very counter productive.

Rational educated adults don’t stoop that low. Assuming the accusations are true (a big if with fundies), this would be so out of character for scientists and their supporters that I would suspect agent provacateurs, Xian terrorists trying to discredit the forces of the enlightenment, someone just lying about persecution, or kids just goofing.

Been through this myself several times. Credible threats should be reported to the FBI and local police. The local police report should be made in person with whatever documentation is available. Anything over the internet can be traced, even if proxy servers are used. All proxy servers are required by law to keep logs and can and will report flagrantly illegal activity.

With one group targeting me, last I heard they had been picked up by the FBI and were answering to felony charges in federal court. Anyone with a brain and some education should know that when you find yourself in federal court explaining the unexplainable, you did something stupid.

I thought I’d pass this link on: http://www.news4jax.com/education/1[…]amp;psp=news

It’s a shame that the local media missed the nuances - but not terribly surprising. No mention of the use of the word “theory”, nor of the inability of average people to understand the difference between average conversation “theory” and “scientific theory”.

Clay School Board Votes In Favor Of Evolution POSTED: 11:57 pm EST January 17, 2008 The Clay County School Board held a public hearing Thursday evening to discuss a possible change in the way science courses are taught in public schools.

The change would result in the word evolution becoming part of the curriculum.

The school board members voted unanimously to allow the theory of evolution to be taught.

The state Board of Education will discuss the standards and vote on them 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 attorney for the board said that the resolution came as close as possible to violating the Kitzmiller decision without actually crossing the line. The board members were, I think, voting on this as a CYA thing and at least three of them said it wouldn’t make a difference with the state BOE anyway. Maybe if we start good science education now we can have more scientifically literate adults on school boards in the future.

Too bad that you can’t get that lawyer into court and have him tell what discussions went on and how he advised the boardmembers to word the document in order to get around the Kitzmiller ruling. His statement indicates a willful intent to game the system and that their real intent of the initiatives was to support their religious beliefs and not public science education.

Why would the board worry about Kitzmiller if they were not trying to do the same thing that the Dover board did? It is a stupid admission on the lawyers part and should tell anyone that this isn’t about the science.

Ron Okimoto:

The attorney for the board said that the resolution came as close as possible to violating the Kitzmiller decision without actually crossing the line. The board members were, I think, voting on this as a CYA thing and at least three of them said it wouldn’t make a difference with the state BOE anyway. Maybe if we start good science education now we can have more scientifically literate adults on school boards in the future.

Too bad that you can’t get that lawyer into court and have him tell what discussions went on and how he advised the boardmembers to word the document in order to get around the Kitzmiller ruling. His statement indicates a willful intent to game the system and that their real intent of the initiatives was to support their religious beliefs and not public science education.

Why would the board worry about Kitzmiller if they were not trying to do the same thing that the Dover board did? It is a stupid admission on the lawyers part and should tell anyone that this isn’t about the science.

DC - Do you know if anyone recorded the attorney saying that?

It doesn’t really seem like Kitzmiller, since the local boards weren’t voting to misinform kids themselves, they were only voting to ask the State BOE to misinform kids. That way they can tell their YEC constituents they did something, but if the state BOE changes the science standards to include lies, its the state that will get sued and have to pay the six figure attorneys fees. Pretty crafty politics, though of course also craven and dispicable. Thats why I’m hoping McCain gets the GOP nomination instead of Romney, who’ll take any position if he thinks it will get him votes.

Why would they be violating Kitzmiller ruling? They are not bound by it. They are in a different district court. I would think they would like to push the issue in a different district court, and hope for a favorable ruling. If not they could always appeal (assuming the school board isn’t booted again) it. Of course smart district boards would probably want to avoid large legal fees. But then again I am sure there are school boards more driven by ideology than whats best for the school district.

Ron Okimoto:

The attorney for the board said that the resolution came as close as possible to violating the Kitzmiller decision without actually crossing the line. The board members were, I think, voting on this as a CYA thing and at least three of them said it wouldn’t make a difference with the state BOE anyway. Maybe if we start good science education now we can have more scientifically literate adults on school boards in the future.

Too bad that you can’t get that lawyer into court and have him tell what discussions went on and how he advised the boardmembers to word the document in order to get around the Kitzmiller ruling. His statement indicates a willful intent to game the system and that their real intent of the initiatives was to support their religious beliefs and not public science education.

Why would the board worry about Kitzmiller if they were not trying to do the same thing that the Dover board did? It is a stupid admission on the lawyers part and should tell anyone that this isn’t about the science.

DC on the Clay County meeting wrote: The new line reads, “…direct the Florida Department of Education to revise the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is clarified as a theory.”

Maybe this could be turned around into a good change if the FDOE follows through and clarifies – in the standards – what a scientific theory actually is. Somebody want to send them some draft text?

But this whole Florida trend IS very discouraging. Unanimous votes?!?!?

I attended the School Board meeting in Clay County, FL last night, 01/17/08. The Clay School Board was considering a resolution to oppose the new science guidelines - stating that the State should not teach Evolution “fact”. NOWHERE in the guidelines is there any reference to Evolution as being fact. The resolution also stated that the curriculum should be “fair and balanced” - clearly an attempt to open the door for the teaching of religion in science classes. At the meeting, 27 people spoke. Only 4 were in favor of the resolution. EVERY person that had a background of knowledge in Science or in Theology spoke against the resolution - backing the teaching of evolution, and stating that religion should not be in the schools. The School Board members were obviously perplexed by the response. They considered changing the wording of their resolution so that it stated that Evolution should be taught as a “theory” instead of a “concept”. Then, they debated about whether or not there is a difference between the two words! However, they passed their revised resolution in opposition of the guidelines. This SCHOOL Board could not come up with definitions for “theory” and “concept”, yet, passed a resolution with that wording. This SCHOOL Board initially wrote a resolution that was opposed to teaching evolution as “fact” - when the FACT is that the guidelines NEVER refer to teaching it as fact. The REAL mission here is to open the door for Creationism to be taught in the schools. However, these obvious Christian politicians do not follow the basic Christian value of honesty. No one on the board would admit what the resolution is really about. However, their attorney was quick to speak up when some of the board members seemed concerned. He stated that the resolution came as close as possible to violating the Kitzmiller decision without actually crossing the line. This made it obvious that legal concerns were discussed with the attorney prior to submitting the resolution for discussion - with PARTICULAR CONCERN over their resolution being similar to Kitzmiller. When board member Wayne Bolla asked how the resolution got onto their agenda, and who wrote it, Superintendent DAVID OWENS boasted, “I will take full responsibility for all of the above.” When asked again who wrote it, Owens admitted writing it - “with the help of others”. He then went on to say, “Read it and vote your conscience.” One cannot avoid wondering which religious group may have assisted Owens in writing such a poorly worded and inaccurate resolution. One cannot avoid wondering why it was pushed onto the board’s agenda (after being passed by the board’s attorney) so quickly. Initially, it was on their agenda ONLY for passing - NOT for open discussion. Was this an attempt to bypass due process and slip religious intentions past the other board members?? Ultimately, the 23 EDUCATED voices of reason fell on the deaf ears of the board. Mr. Owens’ private agenda WAS passed. One can only hope that when these 6 Board members attend their church this Sunday, that they ask their god for forgiveness for deceiving an entire county of people. One can only hope that media will stand up and take notice, and bring Owens’ abuse of his position to the attention of the entire country. I urge those that are interested to contact the Clay County School Board at (904) 284-6500 and request a copy of the video of this meeting. Most of those that spoke up were very informed, and certainly will give you a lot to think about. Watching the School Board squirm to avoid telling the truth about the REAL Agenda, and seeing them banter back and forth trying to ignore public opinion will give you a good laugh. Once you have viewed it, pass it along to those that can make a difference. Thank you for your time.

The School Board members were obviously perplexed by the response.

that’s because, as I have often said, creationists are only able to communicate by using projection.

they automatically assume everyone shares their viewpoint (it being the only good and proper viewpoint), and are always surprised when they inevitably discover otherwise.

the really funny thing is, if this meeting was repeated next week, with a similar turnout, they would STILL be surprised at the response.

actually, you could repeat the same thing every week for a decade…

However, they passed their revised resolution in opposition of the guidelines.

and get the same result.

HDX:

Why would they be violating Kitzmiller ruling? They are not bound by it. They are in a different district court. I would think they would like to push the issue in a different district court, and hope for a favorable ruling. If not they could always appeal (assuming the school board isn’t booted again) it. Of course smart district boards would probably want to avoid large legal fees. But then again I am sure there are school boards more driven by ideology than whats best for the school district.

Actually, HDX, Judge Jones knew his ruling didn’t set a national precedent, but he wrote an encompassing brief to give a “leg-up” to any other jurisdiction that might be confronted with the same blather in the future (and to document in detail the data presented and his rationale for his decision to any appellate court that might be reviewing the case; the Dover SB ballot upheaval squelched that). He deliberately gave great latitude to both sides to present their case, cross-examine each other, then decided, with detailed documentation of his thought processes, the outcome. Although I have a hard time with a court deciding scientific issues (isn’t that something for real scientists to do?) he MEANT it to become a template for future decisions of a similar nature, even if his decision doesn’t hold the weight of judicial precedence.

Although I have a hard time with a court deciding scientific issues (isn’t that something for real scientists to do?)…

In a sense, courts ultimately decide all issues when there is a challenge to whatever body normally makes the decision. The best we could hope for in such cases is to have them do what Jones’ essentially did - rule that scientific bodies are correct on the science.

HDX:

Why would they be violating Kitzmiller ruling? They are not bound by it. They are in a different district court. I would think they would like to push the issue in a different district court, and hope for a favorable ruling. If not they could always appeal (assuming the school board isn’t booted again) it. Of course smart district boards would probably want to avoid large legal fees. But then again I am sure there are school boards more driven by ideology than whats best for the school district.

Kitzmiller isn’t binding to Florida, but they can’t ignore the findings there. They would be stupid if they did and just repeated the same mistakes. The creationists lost Kitzmiller due to incompetence as well as their own dishonesty. These guys are obviously just as dishonest, but they can learn from the mistakes of their fellows. I’m sure that there are some supporters that want to be open and up front about what they are trying to do, but for the majority the ends justify the means.

This isn’t about science education. If it were, they would not have to worry about Kitzmiller.

Where is the resolution about teaching gravity as just a theory? We’ve never actually seen a graviton exchanged afterall. I mean there is a scientific controversy here, the great Newton himself called it spooky action at a distance. I see there is plenty of need for the spirt theory of attraction to be taught alongside gravity.

A few nitpicks in passing:

Where is the resolution about teaching gravity as just a theory? We’ve never actually seen a graviton exchanged afterall.

The current most tested theory on gravitation is general relativity - and it isn’t a quantum theory, so no graviton predicted.

(As I understand it GR, or rather its corresponding effective field theory action can be quantized for weak fields (low energies) and then you get the graviton which everybody expects to see eventually.)

I mean there is a scientific controversy here, the great Newton himself called it spooky action at a distance.

Wrong scientist, wrong science. Einstein coined the sentiment when speaking about quantum entanglement. But as seen in the reference, gravitation as a classic field (Newton) indeed also implies a sort of “spooky” (instantaneous) action at a distance.

The controversy you are thinking of may be that general relativity can’t be fully quantized.

I see there is plenty of need for the spirt theory of attraction to be taught alongside gravity.

Spirt theory? Does that mean gravity acts in spirts, with lulls inn gravitational activity between them spirts?

Henry

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on January 17, 2008 10:42 PM.

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