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"Free Florida's Students from Lagging Behind"
An anti-evolution measure pending in the Florida Legislature could undermine the performance of Florida's young science students and have negative long-term repercussions for the state's economy, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner says in the Orlando Sentinel.
Leshner, who also serves as executive publisher of the journal Science, and co-author Maryann Fiala, executive director of the Florida Council of the American Electronics Association, urged state lawmakers to focus instead on ways to improve science education and to support educators and students in efforts to meet new science standards set by the Florida Board of Education.
The Academic Freedom Act, sponsored by state Sen. Ronda Storms and state Rep. D. Alan Hays, is backed by the Intelligent Design campaign, which holds that a supernatural designer controls key developments in the emergence of life. The Storm-Hays measure is "deceptively named," the authors wrote. It would allow educators to raise misleading challenges to the science of evolution, which is supported by extensive evidence.
The bills would open the door to 'the full range of views' on evolution in science classes," Leshner and Fiala wrote. "This may sound noble, but the bill is a smokescreen for efforts to insert a single religious concept into science classes."
If passed and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist, the measure "could leave Florida's K-12 students confused about the nature of science, and hamstring them when it comes to competing for future jobs," they added.
And that could hurt the state's economy. Florida ranks fourth nationwide in high-tech jobs, but the American Electronics Association recently reported an unexpected slowdown. Figures also show that job growth has been limited by a lack of qualified workers, Fiala and Leshner wrote.
The authors stressed that science and religion are not inherently in conflict, and that believers of many faiths accept the science of evolution. While Intelligent Design could be taught in non-science classes, they said, efforts to introduce it into science classrooms would likely lead to an "expensive and distracting" legal fight.
Edward W. Lempinen
7 April 2008