Monday, February 18, 2008

Florida discovers evolutionary biology. Can democracy be far off?

The state that gave the world George W Bush and can, in a James Burke sort of way, claim responsibility for the entire fiasco in Iraq, is looking seriously at including evolutionary biology as a science to be taught in Florida schools.
Education officials have been traveling the state since November to hear public comment on proposed changes to the standards' science section. Indeed, they added two public hearings and delayed the Education Board's vote until Tuesday because of the uproar over one proposed science revision: "Standard 2. Evolution and Diversity "A. Evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology and is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence. "B. Organisms are classified based on their evolutionary history. "C. Natural selection is the primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change."
Which, naturally, is causing one particular body of freaks to turn themselves inside out, refuse to eat oranges and generally hold their breath until their brains achieve a state of equilibrium rarely found outside Polk County.
This three-sentence standard accurately reflects the state of science on the subject. While critics will point out certain scientists who object to the idea of evolution as science, they are a slim minority, often with religious concerns.
That's pretty standard fare: Florida wingnuts are leaders when it comes to dumbing down the world around them. Columnist and mystery writer, Carl Hiaasen, points out that, that is the reason this coming decision really has no place in Florida. Not because evolutionary biology is open to question as a science, but because such sophistication is just plain out of place in Florida.
In a move that could endanger Florida's flaky backwater reputation, the state Board of Education is poised to endorse the teaching of evolution as a science.

This is a dangerous idea -- not the presentation of Darwinism in schools, but the presentation of Florida as a place of progressive scientific thought.

Over the years the Legislature has worked tirelessly to keep our kids academically stuck in the mid-1950s. This has been achieved by overcrowding their classrooms, underpaying their teachers and letting their school buildings fall apart.

Florida's plucky refusal to embrace 21st century education is one reason that prestigious tech industries have avoided the state, allowing so many of our high-school graduates (and those who come close) to launch prosperous careers in the fast-food, bartending and service sectors of the economy.

By accepting evolution as a proven science, our top educators would be sending a loud message to the rest of the nation: Stop making fun of us.

Is that what we really want?

Well... good point. We are talking about hanging chad country.

... several school boards in North Florida have passed resolutions opposing the teaching of evolution as fact. True, students in those same districts have produced some of the worst science scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, but who needs Newton or Copernicus when you've got the Corinthians?

The notion that humans descended from apes has never been popular among fundamentalists, but what of the apes themselves? Given the gory history of Homo sapiens on Earth, no self-respecting chimp or gorilla would claim a genetic connection to us.

The outcry against evolutionary instruction has been so heated that 40 members of the committee responsible for the new science standards felt compelled to sign a letter stating, ``There is no longer any valid scientific criticism of the theory of evolution.''

Caving in to groups that question the soundness of science, the letter warned, ``would not only seriously impede the education of our children but also create the image of a backward state, raising the risk of Florida's being snubbed by biotechnology companies and other science-based businesses.''

Nice try, pinheads, but there's no sin in being a slightly backward state with extremely modest expectations for its young people. That's been the guiding philosophy of our tightwad lawmakers for years, and the degree to which they've succeeded is illuminated annually in the FCAT charade.

If snubbing is to be done, Florida should be the snubber, not the snubee. Keep your elite biotech payrolls up North and out West -- we've got hundreds of thousands of low-paying, go-nowhere jobs that require little training and minimal education.

Did I promise a treat towards the end of this posting?

Well, no. Actually I didn't, but I'm going to give you one anyway. Having read all the above, it is now time for you to read Kevin "on Florida". I will give you a small taste of what he has to say:

Florida, where I have spent more of my thirties than I can admit even to myself, is a freewheeling and chaotic swath of superheated swamp, a large limp phallus flopping gleefully and aimlessly about in the ever-warmer waters between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean proper, as if waiting for a good reason to rally from an opioid slumber and point toward Europe. It's a mess for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that is median population rivals its average July temperature (that's in Fahrenheit) or the nature of its its chief exports, which are political corruption, windstorm damage, ecological atrocities, spam, and oranges, in that order.
As they never say in the newspapers, read more.

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