Earlier this year, we covered an attempt by Arizona's superintendent of Public Instruction to alter the state's science education standards. Superintendent Diane Douglas seemingly directed her staff to edit a set of standards prepared by educators so that numerous mentions of the word "evolution" were eliminated. Climate change was later diminished in a similar manner.But since that time, the news has been almost uniformly good. Superintendent Douglas lost in a primary election to a fellow Republican, her edits to the school standards were rejected by the state school board, and a last-ditch effort to swap in educational guidelines from a religious college wasn't even given serious consideration.
As we noted in our earlier coverage, Douglas has in the past suggested that schools teach intelligent design, which is the idea that life arose and diversified due to the intervention of an intelligent agent rather than evolution. It's an idea that was generated for religious purposes, and its teaching has been ruled an imposition of religion by the courts. She has also misunderstood the status of a scientific theory in suggesting that it reflected the idea that our knowledge of evolution is uncertain. These beliefs seem to have motivated her intervention into the science standards.
In September, however, Douglas' attempts to inject her beliefs into Arizona's classrooms ran into a couple of problems. To begin with, she faced a number of challengers during the Republican primary for her position; two of them received more votes than she did, meaning she won't have her party's nomination for re-election. Then, at a state school board meeting, the Arizona Science Teachers Association suggested a number of changes that restored details of climate change and evolution to the proposed standards.
Faced with the potential of seeing the expert-approved standards adopted, Douglas made a last-ditch effort to block them. Early yesterday, it was reported that Douglas planned to attempt a complete substitution of the science standards, getting rid of both her own edited version and the one with the educator-approved modifications. In their place, she had substitute material developed for charter schools by a private religious college. At the board meeting later that day, however, no other board members were apparently willing to second the motion to even consider the change.
Instead, the board approved the standards with the edits provided by the science teachers' organization. With that, the drama over science education in the state has hopefully drawn to a close.