Challenge is one thing, stacking the deck is another

The creationists are playing legalistic games again.

Policymakers in the United States are pushing to give the public more power to influence what educators teach students. Last week, Florida’s legislature started considering two related bills that, if enacted, would let residents recommend which instructional materials teachers in their school district use in their classrooms.

The bills build on a law enacted in June 2017, which enables any Florida resident to challenge the textbooks and other educational tools used in their district as being biased or inaccurate. In the five months after the state’s governor approved the law, residents filed at least seven complaints, including two that challenge the teaching of evolution and human-driven climate change, according to the Associated Press.

I have questions.

What do the creationists think this bill accomplishes? They can “challenge” science teachers right now, and they can recommend instructional materials. Go ahead. Disagree with me. Send me Chick tracts and tell me to replace my textbooks with those. You can do that! I’d find it very entertaining. I’d put it in my promotion review file for my colleagues to chortle over, and it would be helpful to me. But otherwise, you can challenge all you want, but I’m just going to ignore you.

What the bill actually does is increase the nuisance value of creationists and create additional costs for Florida schools.

With the law now in place, any county resident — not just any parent with a child in the country’s public schools, as was the case previously — can now file a complaint about instructional materials in the county’s public schools, and the school will now have to appoint a hearing officer to hear the complaint.

This is a law that enables teacher harassment. Nothing else. It’s not going to change the science at all, it’s just going to allow ignorant people to meddle in education — precisely the wrong people to empower.

Now I’d like to know more about this “hearing officer”. If it’s a guy with a wastebasket who sits in a room shuffling complaints to their appropriate destination, that’s just a waste of time and money; if it’s a guy who actually has some power to punish or otherwise affect teachers, then it’s a poison to education.


  1. fernando says

    Good oportunity to sugest the “Ainulindalë” to be instructional material, while starting school debates about “God” being in truth the fallen “vala” previously knowed has Melkor: Morgoth Bauglir; while Eru Iluvatar (the True God) chills out in the Timeless Halls.

  2. says


    Or better still suggest we instill Codex Regius into our schools. In ON of course. Let our children learn to differentiate between fornyrðislag and ljóðaháttr.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    Anyone who wants to follow this serial debacle in more detail should bookmark the Florida Citizens for Science blog: FCS Communications Director Brandon Haught does an excellent job in tracking the shenanigans of the (teabagger-dominated) Florida legislature and the wingnut Florida Citizens’ Alliance which seems to have taken control of both chambers on school issues.

    Yes, opportunities for resistance do exist, in every county…

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    As for … I’d like to know more about this “hearing officer”. – wouldn’t we all.

    The (carefully?) sloppily-written law providing for such hearing officers does not specify their requisites or powers, except that they give reports to school boards, and provides no statewide mechanism for recording their activities, so all this will be worked out on the ground depending on the respective leverage of the pro- and anti-science groups in 67 counties.

    The thoroughly-Republican “Citizens Alliance” leadership, which claims to have written the bills passed by the state legislature last year, has of course offered its membership to serve as “hearing officers” wherever needed.

  5. Crimson Clupeidae says

    I suspect other right wing subjects might be involved here as well (economics, social theories, etc.), so at least the science teachers will have some new people to share the laughs.

  6. Marissa van Eck says

    This system is ripe for destruction from within, in much the way the Satanic Temple was able to get a statue of Baphomet erected.

    Simply have a bunch of rational people flood the system with their own requests for review. Real ones, not fake ones. At some point, this will amount to a DDoS attack, and the system will either shut down, or will start filtering requests in a way that reveals the obvious bias behind its creation in the first place, at which point they are wide open for lawsuits.

    Take the system down from within, is what I mean. Follow the letter of the law, not the (evil) spirit.

  7. zetopan says

    “… if it’s a guy who actually has some power to punish or otherwise affect teachers, then it’s a poison to education.”

    “if”? Since poisoning education is the ultimate creationist goal there is no actual question involved.