After a huge outpouring of comments from citizens concerned about education, Arizona has backed away from proposed science standards that would have watered down the teaching of evolution to students in grades K-12.
We reported on this issue in May, when the proposed amendments were released and the Arizona Department of Education proposed changes to the standards that would have downplayed the importance of evolution and misrepresented the scientific process in general.
Now, the same board has approved new standards that reject State Superintendent Diane Douglas’ suggestion to replace them with more conservative standards taken from a college in Michigan.
The science standards include edits recommended by the Arizona Science Teachers Association after an outcry over how the draft standards addressed evolution. Those edits emphasize that “The unity and diversity of organisms, living and extinct, is the result of evolution.”
The revised standards will be used by K-12 public district and charter schools statewide. Their approval received thunderous applause from educators and education advocates sitting in the boardroom.
Douglas’ motion to adopt the Hillsdale standards was met with silence from state board members. Not one seconded her motion and the proposal failed.
The superintendent prefaced the motion with a monologue touching on state test scores, school choice and basic arithmetic. She argued that the revised standards are “vague and incomplete at best, and indoctrination at worst.”
“We cannot, must not continue to fail any portion of our students in traditional districts,” she said. “When our children fail, it means we have failed to provide education.”
Somehow, she thinks that properly educating kids about evolution qualifies as “indoctrination” and that teaching proper science amounts to a failure of education. She couldn’t be more wrong about both claims.
Indoctrination is excluding the study of comparative religion while emphasizing Christianity above other beliefs. That’s what was in the altered standards that Douglas wanted. We don’t need more emphasis on religious mythology in school just as we don’t need to pretend science doesn’t operate the way scientists say it operates. The people who defended science deserve credit for making their voices heard, as do the members of the State Board of Education who didn’t let a conservative’s awful ideas hurt children across the state.
The new standards were adopted 6-4. It was still too close for comfort. But it was the right outcome.
The Secular Coalition for Arizona was one of several groups arguing for strong science standards, and they applauded this move:
“We’ve been very concerned about Diane Douglas’ efforts to push her religious views on more than a million kids in Arizona’s public schools. Our students deserve to be taught science in their science classes, and to be free from religious indoctrination at school,” said Zenaido Quintana, President of the Secular Coalition for Arizona. “The State Board of Education made the right decision in adopting science standards approved by highly-qualified science teachers.”
“We appreciate that the Board listened to the voices of science experts and secular allies in making their decision. We are grateful our community was heard,” said Quintana.
The National Center for Science Education also praised the decision:
“This is a tremendous victory for Arizona science education,” commented NCSE’s executive director Ann Reid. “Only with a scientifically accurate and pedagogically appropriate treatment of evolution and climate change in their state science standards — and in their textbooks and classrooms — will Arizona’s public school students be adequately prepared to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.”
The people who know science best believe the new standards are ideal. If only all the people in charge of education in the state felt the same way.
(Screenshot via YouTube)