News Media Icon News Media

Stop the Presses! Columnist Reports Accurately on Arizona Science Standards

Sarah Chaffee

Arizona

It’s always encouraging when this happens. The problem is, it happens all too rarely. 

Normally, reporters and columnists stick to the media line: using inflammatory, misleading language when there is any debate about science standards on evolution. But Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb has bucked the trend. 

Arizona is in the process of revising its science standards. The Department of Education made some changes to the evolution standards. To me, these changes seem nitpicky rather than encouraging of examination of the scientific controversy over evolution (see our Science Education Policy). 

Some reporters have heavily criticized Superintendent Diane Douglas, saying that she took evolution out of the standards. For example, another column in the Arizona Republic, by Laurie Roberts, says: “Holy Scopes! Arizona’s education chief attacks teaching evolution.” A report at Live Science by Brandon Specktor asks, “Can You Teach Evolution Without Saying the Word? Arizona Is About to Find Out.” 

These are false. There’s no “attack” on evolution. But Robb gives an accurate representation. He notes, “The controversy over School Superintendent Diane Douglas and evolution is a tempest in a teapot.” He rightly calls it a “false alarm.”

Why? Because: “In short, even with the Douglas edits, Arizona students would be taught the theory of evolution and its mechanisms, and no other explanation of how the natural world came to be as it is.” 

He points out the clear difference between intelligent design and creationism, and even represents Discovery Institute’s position accurately! Robb notes:  

Importantly, the Discovery Institute doesn’t think that intelligent design should be taught in schools. It merely advocates that greater attention be given to remaining gaps and uncertainties in the evolutionary explanation.

There is nothing in the proposed standards, with the Douglas edits, that would even require that.

Although the Discovery Institute doesn’t believe that intelligent design should be taught in schools, there are politicians, including Douglas, who nevertheless advocate for it.

I’m glad Robb is bringing some sanity to the discussion of Arizona’s science standards. You see, it is possible to write plainly and honestly about controversies in science education!

Photo: Arizona Republic Building, by Zeb Micelli [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons.