The Arizona State Board of Education is reviewing the state’s science curriculum standards and the superintendent of public instruction, Diane Douglas, is using the opportunity to push a creationist agenda. The board will discuss and take a final vote on the current draft of the standards, which undermine the teaching of evolution, on Monday, Oct. 22.
During the curriculum revision process, Douglas hasn't been shy about her strategy to try to undermine evolution: “Personally, I absolutely believe that intelligent design ... should be taught alongside evolution. But the courts have deemed that unconstitutional.” So she is moving ahead with her secondary strategy: “to clearly define the strengths and weaknesses of evolution theory.” She must have missed when a federal court said this strategy – undermining science to promote religion in public schools – is unconstitutional too.
Arizona’s curriculum review is supposed to ensure that students are learning the most important and up-to-date science. That’s why Arizona convened a group of experts who put together a draft of new standards. After the experts did their work, the draft went to Douglas’s Department of Education for a review – and that’s when the trouble started.
Evolution “is the only tested, comprehensive scientific explanation for the nature of the biological world today that is supported by overwhelming evidence and widely accepted in the scientific community.” Yet, the department deleted or changed nearly every mention of “evolution” in the draft standards.
After facing harsh criticism, the Department of Education put together a new group – which included creationist Joseph Kezele – to further revise the language. And it’s clear he had an influence. The current draft standards include evolution, but in the words of a Nobel laureate, “feebly describe it as ‘an explanation’ for the unity and diversity of life.” This is just another way to cast doubt on the scientific explanation. And if that’s not enough, the draft standards now omit the very concept at the “center of the evolutionary sciences” – common ancestry.
This follows the strategy commonly used by creationists – to undermine students’ confidence in evolution. This, creationists believe, will naturally cause students to seek another explanation and spark discussions of religious beliefs, like creationism, in the classroom.
The Arizona Board of Education will take a vote on the standards in just a few days. We wrote a letter to the board urging it to approve science standards that are based on science, rather than religious beliefs. America’s children deserve sound science education that is based on the best available evidence. You can sign up for our emails so you can be alerted if AU is fighting attempts to introduce creationism in schools near you.