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In Arizona, Science Education Goes to a Vote


“‘Science not fairy tales:’ Teachers speak out against proposed science standards.”

That’s a recent headline regarding science standards revision in Arizona, where emotions run high. 

Previously, I reported on some state Department of Education changes to the originally drafted science standards, particularly the ones on evolution. Recently, there has been fuss over a working group meeting addressing the evolution standards. National organizations and teachers have also called for changes to the coverage of evolution in the standards. 

Now, the standards (and outgoing Superintendent Diane Douglas’s proposition to use Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School standards to replace all of Arizona’s academic standards) are before the Board. They are likely to vote in October. 

It would be best for the Board to encourage learning about the scientific controversy over evolution. What better way for Arizona students to practice the skill of scientific inquiry? This is the approach taken in Texas’s 2017 science standards, which ask students to “analyze and evaluate” core aspects of evolutionary theory, including natural selection. 

Talk of evolution in science standards tips off a firestorm of controversy. Let’s hope that the Board of Education focuses on student learning and the content of standards, instead of the barrage of media attention, as we approach the October vote. Perhaps then they will chart a way forward that ensures inquiry-based evolution education for Arizona students. 

Photo credit: McElspeth, via Flickr.