Do the Math (but not the Science)
There are at least 164 voucher-eligible schools in our state teaching Creationism, according to Brandon Haught’s recent op ed in the Tampa Bay Times. Haught is communications director for Florida Citizens for Science. He explains that FCS takes “a strong, determined stand for sound science education in our home state,” and affirms “Florida’s taxpayers should not fund or otherwise support substandard science education.”
Good point, but the issue is worth further analysis. Ecology Florida agrees with the FCS position, but there is more at stake than substandard science education. Minimally, we are confronted with the embarrassment of having at least 164 Florida schools offering students both an opportunity for state subsidized tuition and woefully deficient education in science. That’s no bargain for students and their families, and no benefit to the state. Besides this, there is also most likely a significant First Amendment consideration here, since Creationism is a faux-science developed on the basis of a particular religion’s cosmogony.
Creationism is contingent on a distinct faith-claim and a unique creation myth. FCS is right to point out that Florida’s taxpayers should not fund or otherwise support faulty science education, but taxpayers should not fund or otherwise support teaching the repackaged cosmogony of a distinct religious system.
Courtesy: Bill Moyers & Company
Haught reminds us that these science-denying schools “get away with it,” because “tax credit scholarship students” do not have to take state-approved tests in science. They do have to take state tests in reading and math. This thickens the plot further because elected officials in Tallahassee (beginning with the governor) are enthusiastically promoting a STEM-focused curriculum in state colleges and universities. Note, the acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Those voucher-students are being tested for the last STEM field (Math), but not the first (Science).
The paradox is as puzzling as it troubling. On the one hand our elected leaders are subsidizing substandard science education in voucher-eligible primary and secondary schools, while on the other they are promoting and investing significant resources in high-standard science education at state colleges and universities. Moreover, the investment in university science and the other STEM fields is coming at a high cost – specifically, the marginalization of the Humanities.
So, as we voyage ever further into the strange world of Florida’s experiment with promoting faux science, we are leaving behind the very fields that educate students in how to think critically about life, culture, and religion – and maybe why it is not such a good idea to subsidize Creationism and authentic science while abandoning the fields that question the meaning and value of both.