By S.V. DATE Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
Even though Florida’s public school standards require the teaching of evolution and not creationism, millions of dollars in state money goes to teach the story of biblical creation, thanks to the state’s voucher programs.
Schools taking public money from any of the state’s three voucher programs are not bound by the Sunshine State Standards, which all public schools must follow and be graded on each year with the FCAT.
“Many of the parents bring their kids here because they want a Christian education,” said Frederick White, principal at Mount Hermon Christian School, where about a dozen of the 115 students are using vouchers. “And a Christian education does not include evolution.”
About 25 percent of voucher-taking schools are nonreligious, and others are religious schools that apply the state’s science standards, including instruction in evolutionary biology. But many – perhaps even most – of the 1,100 participating schools are of evangelical Christian denominations that teach the biblical story of creation in six days as literal truth.
The state does not track the curricula used by voucher-taking schools. In a survey conducted by The Palm Beach Post of voucher schools in 2003, 43 percent of the religious schools that responded indicated that they used either the A Beka or the Bob Jones curriculum, both of which teach that evolutionary biology is false and that God created all species on Earth.
If that percentage is applied to the statewide total, it would mean that about 375 voucher-taking schools, educating about 8,700 students, use Bob Jones, A Beka or both.
A Potter’s House Christian Academy in Jacksonville, one of the biggest voucher-taking schools in the state with 200 voucher students, reported in The Post survey that it uses both the A Beka and Bob Jones curricula. It also reported that 90 percent of its parents chose the school primarily for religious reasons.
A Beka, a Pensacola publisher affiliated with Pensacola Christian College, prints an eighth-grade book titled Matter and Motion in God’s Universe that ends, according to the company’s Web site, “with a chapter on science versus the false philosophy of evolution.”
A Beka’s sixth-grade science book, Observing God’s World, teaches “the universe as the direct creation of God and refutes the man- made idea of evolution.”
A seventh-grade Bob Jones science book, Life Science for Christian Schools, has a subchapter titled “How Biological Evolution Supposedly Took Place.” The book explains: “The Bible tells us that God directly created all things (John 1:3). The Bible contradicts the theory of evolution. In doing so, the Bible does not contradict true science, since evolution is not science.”
In contrast, public students by the eighth grade are supposed to know “that the fossil record provides evidence that changes in the kinds of plants and animals have been occurring over time.” By the 12th grade, the Sunshine State Standards require students to understand “the mechanisms of change (e.g. mutation and natural selection) that lead to adaptations in a species.” Both are considered critical components of evolutionary biology.