Marion County got complaints about science textbooks

Rather than use the traditional approach of choosing instructional materials from a list vetted and approved by the Florida Department of Education, Marion County is the first school district to forgo the list and review and select textbooks on their own. I posted that interesting news back in September. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much about the process or the motivations behind it since then. Why are they putting in the extra time, effort and expense to do it themselves?

This seems like quite a newsworthy event and yet no media outlet has jumped on it until now (edited to add: my mistake, other media outlets did report on this back in September, but none of those stores had any mention of science book complaints). The Orlando Fox News station interviewed superintendent Heidi Maier: Residents could have direct input on school textbooks. Here’s an interesting tidbit (bold emphasis mine):

“I said there has to be a way to chose our own and in statute there was, it’s called pathway A. Pathway B is using the state list, we chose to go with pathway A, so we will be able to choose our own textbooks,” said Superintendent Dr. Heidi Maier.

Maier was receiving complaints about the district’s science and history books, along with complaints about low reading proficiency in students throughout the district. It’s a problem that teachers, we spoke to, say needs to be addressed through the text children are reading.

The reporter apparently didn’t follow up or report on what those science textbook complaints were about. I think a public records request to find that out for ourselves is in order.

Marion County residents, please report in to us. Your activism is sorely needed.

(Edited to add: Other media reporting here, here and here.)

Nassau County complaint: “stop promoting this scientifically inadequate theory of evolution as fact

Florida has a new law this year that allows any citizen, even if he or she doesn’t have a child in the school system, to challenge contents of instructional materials used in the local public schools. Don’t like something you see in a textbook? File a complaint with your local school board and you may get your moment in the spotlight because the new law apparently requires that your complaint triggers a formal hearing complete with an appointed hearing officer. (See our long series of posts about the law at our Instructional Materials bills ’17 blog category.)

That law is now heading out for a test drive in Nassau County. The school board there received a complaint from Mr. Jay W. Shutt last month. I obtained this request via public records request. All bolding and other formatting are his.


     My request to the Nassau County Board of Education is that we stop promoting this scientifically inadequate theory of evolution as fact to our students.  We should no longer purchase books teaching evolution as proven scientific fact or books that present evolution as proven fact.  Until the current books wear out, I propose placing a disclaimer sticker in the front of every textbook that promotes or presents evolution as proven fact.  The sticker could read something like the following:

This book contains references or information about evolution leading the reader to believe that evolution is proven fact.  Those who believe in Creation Science would argue that evolution is impossible because:  (1) evolution cannot explain the chance formation of  the first  living cell capable of cell division. (2) evolution cannot explain the complexities of life such as the human genome having 3 billion base pairs and the human brain being  capable of more than 20 million billion calculations/second. (3)evolution cannot explain the transfer of intelligence to genes.  For example, how does a pollen grain know when it is at the right place on  the right flower?  How does it know what to do next? And (4) evolution cannot explain the lack of transitional forms (missing links) in the fossil record.  There is not one “so called” missing link agreed upon by all highly qualified evolutionary scientists.

If the Nassau County Board of Education decides to adopt these measures, there is a strong possibility of a threatened lawsuit by groups such as the ACLU.  However, if our lawyer along with a highly qualified molecular biologist (who believes in intelligent design) sit down with these groups and explain that they will need to come up with reasonable, scientific, evolutionary explanations for the serious flaws in their theory, I doubt they would dare a court challenge.

The truth is that the extraordinary advances in microbiology and DNA knowledge have really eliminated evolution as a plausible explanation for life on planet earth.  As far back as 1953 Francis Crick and James Watson began mapping the human genome.  These men immediately became aware that the complexity of DNA far exceeded what evolutionary science could reasonably produce.

Francis Crick, who was an atheist and a believer in evolution, changed his position to accepting that extra-terrestrials brought life to our world.  I’m not sure if he later changed his beliefs, but he still needed to address the issue of “where did the alien DNA come from?”

This is a second reason I don’t think the Board’s decision will actually be challenged in court.  The new scenario that life on earth was brought here by extraterrestrials is about ready to be publically promoted.  It has been programmed into our literature and our films for many years.  UFO sightings and alien encounters have been exploding exponentially for the last few years.  Even the Catholic Church has astronomers on Mt. Graham observatories in Arizona searching the skies for the arrival of our “space brothers.”
All this is coming, and I don’t think organizations who oppose Creation Science will risk a certain defeat in a court of law on the issue of evolution being taught as fact in our schools.  More than likely, they will do everything they can to keep the Board’s decision from making state or national news.

The Board will probably postpone a final decision on this issue until a future date.  Maybe the Board would like to call in experts in the fields of evolution and molecular biology to gather more information.  However, I request that the Board set a timeline for whatever future measures it decides to take.  I make this request because, as human beings, we tend not to rush into areas which may cause us difficulties.  If timelines are not set, decisions may be put off almost indefinitely.   This issue is too important to allow unnecessary delays, and I hope the Board will elevate it to a high priority issue.  Thank you all for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,
Jay W. Shutt

Before the new instructional materials law, a request of this type could be dismissed with a polite “thank you for your time.” And that is the proper way to handle nonsense like Shutt’s letter. But no longer. The emails I received in response to my public records request indicate that a hearing was being arranged. An email to Mr. Shutt dated October 6 states:

Mr. Shutt, In follow-up to our conversation and my email to you yesterday, please let me know some dates and times you’re available for a hearing so that I can get it coordinated.  Also, it would be helpful if you would provide me an estimate of the amount of time you believe that you will need to make your presentation.

J. Ray Poole
Chief of Legal Services
Nassau County School District

I’m providing here links to the Word documents Shutt submitted: his request (EVOLUTIONARY PETITION FOR ACTION TO BOARD) that I copied above and his summary of the errors found in some Nassau County textbooks(Evolution is an Unscientific Theory). His summary starts with this:

Since the late 1960’s, and even before that in secular colleges, the theory of evolution has been taught as proven scientific fact.  That is the case in the 3 Nassau County science textbooks (1 middle school and 2 high school) I read.   All 3 textbooks, and almost all science textbooks at any level, begin with a faulty definition of evolution.

I invite you to read his ridiculous summary, which ends with this call to action:

We need to stop teaching a scientifically bankrupt theory which debases our self-worth and eliminates moral absolutes, as proven fact, to our children.  And we need to act as soon as possible!

It will be interesting to see how Nassau County handles this request. I can’t imagine this actually impacting the textbooks there, but you never know. I’m in the process of following up my first public records request with additional requests for updates. I believe that the hearing was scheduled for early November, and so I need to find out what happened. 

This is merely the first challenge. I guarantee more are to come in other counties. And they’ll likely be a bit more sophisticated than Mr. Shutts’ outdated flailing.

By the way, do you know what’s going on in YOUR school district?