We could very well be witnessing a case of educational de-evolution right before our very eyes. For the first time in more than a decade, the standards for teaching science, history, and social science in Arizona classrooms are under debate. In the newly drafted standards you can see for yourself the crossed-out words “evolution” and “evolve” and in their place phrases like “change over time”. More specifically, evolution would always have to be referred to as the “theory of evolution”.
The new standards also suggest a version of creationism called “intelligent design” – you know, the whole “life on Earth could not have arisen by chance and was designed by some guy in the sky” theory – should be taught in tandem with evolution. It would be left to the teacher’s discretion which one students should learn.
The changes came when Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas reportedly revised the state’s original proposal, already the culmination of a year-long revision by science educators in the state. Science teacher Amber Struthers told a local news outlet the deletions go beyond usual revisions made by the Department of Education, which usually includes no more than corrections of grammar.
It’s not just a matter of what to teach, but also how to teach it. According to a local NPR affiliate, the Next Generation Science Standards – a recommended curriculum for teaching science to schoolkids – is currently being written. These were written by 26 states including Arizona, yet the state is one of seven others who have not yet adopted them and instead has chosen to write its own.
This isn’t the first time creationists have tried to slip intelligent design theories into the educational process. In fact, the legal and political debate dates back decades. Those that subscribe to the theory tout it as one with scientific backing; evolution, they argue, is merely a theory itself. That being said, opponents agree that intelligent design isn’t science because, at the very least, it’s not based on findings gained through scientific methods such as observation and testing. In 2005, a federal judge ruled a Pennsylvania school board couldn’t require high school teachers to read a statement about intelligent design before discussing evolution.
Residents of Arizona have until May 28 to issue public feedback, after which the standards will be submitted to the Board of Education in advance of adopting them in the fall.