There is no scientific or educational justification for proposed changes to Arizona’s K-12 science standards related to evolution and the Big Bang. The ACLU of Arizona advocated against these proposals in a recent letter sent to the Arizona Department of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The proposed changes seek to diminish the scientific validity of evolution and related concepts. In some places, the word “evolution” would be replaced with “biological diversity” or “change in genetic composition of a population over successive generations.” References to the Big Bang would be replaced with “theories related to the scale and expansion of the universe.” This type of code language sows uncertainty and confusion among students and emboldens some educators to present their personal religious beliefs about these matters in class.
The legitimate scientific community universally accepts evolution and the Big Bang. The proposed science standards changes are only a transparent attempt to open the door for intelligent-design advocates and others to inject non-scientific, religious explanations for these phenomena into public-school curricula.
“Intelligent design,” the idea that life, or the universe, cannot have arisen by chance and was designed and created by some intelligent entity, does not belong in Arizona public classrooms.
Courts have repeatedly ruled that it is unlawful to censor the teaching of evolution in public schools or to use schools to promote religious doctrine such as creationism. “Intelligent design” is just an extension of creationism; there is no scientific evidence to support it, and it cannot be taught in public schools.
It is incredibly disappointing that the changes were proposed by Superintendent Douglas, who in November indicated her desire for intelligent design to be taught alongside evolution in public schools. The public schools superintendent should never act to undermine science, which is a foundation of a well-educated society.
Referring to evolution as a “theory,” which is another proposed change, would create uncertainty regarding evolution’s validity as a scientific concept. These alterations would cause confusion for teachers and students, weaken Arizona’s ability to provide high-quality science education and career preparedness for its students, and raise serious constitutional concerns under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which requires the separation of church and state.
If the Arizona Department of Education allows these changes to move forward, it would be a disservice to well-intentioned teachers and schools, as well as students who wish to pursue STEM careers. Matters of faith are personal and they should not be taught in public schools; they are best left to a student’s family and religious community.