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Joe Henderson: Balance? Are you kidding? Florida SB 330 is educational quackery

Florida doesn’t need more things like SB 330.

Despite so much inclusion and moderation by new Gov. Ron DeSantis, some Republicans in the Florida Legislature can be counted on for dunderhead proposals. For today’s example, consider Florida SB 330.

It was filed by conservative Ocala Sen. Dennis Baxley. In this now seemingly annual GOP attack on science, Baxley proposes that “controversial theories and concepts shall be taught in a factual, objective and balanced manner.”

Well, you may ask, what’s wrong with that?

Let’s look at that question in a factual, objective and balanced manner.

When doing that, we learn it’s another straight out of looneyville stab by those say there is no proof climate change is real. If it is real, they say humans had nothing to do with it. They usually punctuate that by saying something intellectual like pffffffffffftttt.

That’s dangerous quackery because climate scientists around the globe have warned it is real and getting worse. But Baxley appears to have worked with a Naples-area anti-science group called the Florida Citizens Alliance to draft this bill.

The Alliance declares on its website: “Our establishment education system is failing America’s students academically, civically and morally. Florida children are being indoctrinated in a public-school system that undermines their individual rights and destroys our founding principles and family values.”

Groups like this love to toss around words like “indoctrinated.” Accepted facts become an attack on “individual rights.”

It sounds more sinister that way.

How about the individual right not to drown thanks to rising sea levels that already are affecting Florida coastlines?

NASA has studied climate change extensively. Paraphrasing, it says there is a 95 percent chance man caused it.

Skeptics: Nah. And let’s cut NASA’s funding.

But, oh wait, let’s take on Charles Darwin and evolution, too.

LiveScience.com says of Darwin’s theory: “Evolution by natural selection is one of the best-substantiated theories in the history of science.”

Skeptics: Proof, schmoof.

Before long, they could demand the counter to Darwin is found in Genesis 1:1:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Student: Will that last part be on the test?

Teacher: You betcha.

These theories are not controversial.

That doesn’t stop lawmakers from trying to override science with religion. It also has to be their religion.

You know, it’s possible to believe in God AND science. Maybe God left behind cosmic breadcrumbs from the Big Bang so humans would use their brains to learn more.

In the Catholic Church, for instance, Pope Pius said nearly 70 years ago that evolution is compatible with the church’s teaching about creation. Pope John Paul II nearly a quarter-century ago said evolution was “more than a hypothesis.”

But in some corners of the Florida Legislature, this is controversial and needs balance. Spewing state-ordered malarkey at the front of a classroom in the name of balance is educational malpractice.

Which brings us back to DeSantis.

He is conservative for sure, but so far he has been fair and decisive. DeSantis has concentrated on the whole state rather than scoring cheap points with the almighty GOP base.

Even Democratic rival Gwen Graham noted in a tweet, “This is good. You are surprising a lot of people @RonDeSantisFL, including me. Florida and Floridians come before politics. Please keep it up.”

And in a conversation I had recently with GOP state Sen. Tom Lee about another topic, he offered an unsolicited observation about the new Governor.

“He is leading a cultural change in our party that is quite disruptive,” Lee said. “It is really reflective of a different brand of conservative politics. It feels really different in Tallahassee right now.”

Cultural change like that happens slowly, though.

You might even say it evolves.

One way to speed that process is to stop denying facts. Another way is to cease embracing debunked theories in the name of balance.

We need smart people going forward.

Florida doesn’t need more things like SB 330.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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