President of the AZ Science Teachers Association discusses efforts to remove evolution from curriculum

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The Arizona Department of Education has been trying to change the science standards in the state as Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas made news about wanting to remove evolution from the curriculum, but Arizona Science Teachers Association president Bruce Jones explains why that is not the answer.

The last time new science standards were adopted and revised in Arizona was 2005. The latest revision has been in the works for the past 18 months and open to public comments since early May.

Science teachers from around the state have provided their input to the new standards. A draft was intended to be ready last November until it went into an “internal review,” Jones says. He says when the draft came back several things were changed by the Department of Education, including the removal of the word “evolution.” The standards are made at the state level, then it’s up to the individual school districts to decide how the standards are met.

“At most levels, they follow that same story line that Darwin used,” Jones says on how most schools teach evolution. “Let’s look at how things changed and evidence for those things, and then come up with the cause of mechanism.”

Jones says these changes would make teaching biology a struggle, which is centered around finding the reason for things, why something happens and what causes it.

“If you throw some of those things out, start saying ‘things are as they are now and they’ve never been any different,’ we know that’s not necessarily the case,” Jones says. “As our understanding has developed we change things. It’s not 500 years ago where the Earth is the center of the universe.”

Douglas has attempted to minimize the big-bang theory in school textbooks and lessons. She’s discussed the possibility of teaching intelligent design, or creationism, as one of the theories of how the world came to be. However, the Supreme Court previously ruled that public schools are not allowed to teach creationism.

“It comes to the core that in a science classroom we’re talking about science based on evidence and those things that we can see and measure and find support for very clearly,” Jones says. “Those ideas of absolute truth or reasoning behind it would not have a place necessarily in the science classroom.”

You can review the science standards draft here.

Bruce Jones: President, Arizona Science Teachers Association

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