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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution and Climate Education Update for 2018/09/14

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear friends of NCSE,

The latest draft of Arizona's state science standards is problematic
for both evolution and now climate change. NSTA issues a new, and
welcome, statement on the teaching of climate science. And NCSE's Ann
Reid addresses climate change education in the pages of Education


As the latest draft of a new set of state science standards for
Arizona is apparently on its way to the state board of education for
its approval, concerns about the compromised treatment of evolution
remain -- and have been now joined by concerns about the deletion of
material about climate change.

As NCSE previously reported, the treatment of evolution in a previous
draft of the standards was sabotaged by staff at the state department
of education at the behest of Superintendent Diane Douglas, who is on
record as advocating the teaching of "intelligent design" alongside
evolution and as disagreeing with the rulings that prevent it.

While "intelligent design" was not included in the draft, the
revisions were clearly aimed at softening the treatment of evolution.
For example, a middle-school-level standard discussing natural
selection's role in speciation was revised to eliminate the e-word,
"evolution," as well as the reference to speciation.

After a public comment period during which thousands of responses were
received, the standards were again revised in light of the comments in
July 2018 -- except for the sections on evolution, which were revised
by a specially appointed committee over the course of three hours on
August 30, 2018.

Astonishingly, a young-earth creationist was appointed to the
evolution committee. As the Phoenix New Times reported (September 13,
2018), "Joseph Kezele, the president of the Arizona Origin Science
Association, is a staunch believer in the idea that enough scientific
evidence exists to back up the biblical story of creation."

While he reportedly refrained from discussing creationism during the
process, "Kezele successfully convinced other members to de-emphasize
evolution in at least one instance," according to the New Times,
changing a description of evolution as "the explanation" for the unity
and diversity of life to "an explanation."

Although there are places in which the treatment of evolution was
improved, the idea of common ancestry -- which is prominent in the NRC
Framework for K-12 Science Education and Working with Big Ideas of
Science Education, both major sources for the Arizona standards -- is
still absent from the draft.

Meanwhile, climate change seems also to have been targeted in the
latest draft, with -- for example -- the wholesale deletion of the
discussion of climate change in the high-school-level Earth and Space
Science Plus (i.e., honors) section of the standards. It is as yet
unclear what motivated these deletions.

The apparent targeting of climate change in Arizona's state science
standards was already noted in reports on the National Science Teacher
Association's recent statement on the teaching of climate science,
such as Education Week's and Inside Climate News's (both September 13,

What's next? After a finalized version of the latest draft is
prepared, it will undergo evaluation by Superintendent Douglas and
then be submitted to the state board of education for its decision.
The board is expected to consider the standards at its September 24,
2018, meeting, although no agenda for the meeting is yet available.

"Arizona can do better than this," commented NCSE's executive director
Ann Reid. "Anyone who cares about the integrity of science education
in Arizona should tell the board return the standards to the
department of education for further work -- under the guidance, I
hope, of a superintendent who understands the value of science

Superintendent Douglas, who lost her bid to be the Republican nominee
for Superintendent of Public Instruction in the August 28, 2018,
primary election, is expected to be replaced by either Frank Riggs
(the Republican nominee) or Kathy Hoffman (the Democratic nominee) in
2019 after the November 6, 2018, general election.

For the latest draft of the standards (PDF), visit: 

For the story in the Phoenix New Times, visit: 

For the stories in Education Week and Inside Climate News, visit: 

And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Arizona, visit: 


The National Science Teachers Association issued a position statement
on the teaching of climate science on September 13, 2018. The
statement acknowledges the overwhelming scientific consensus on
anthropogenic climate change and calls for climate change to be taught
"as any other established field of science."

In a September 13, 2018, press release announcing the statement, David
Evans, NSTA's executive director, commented, "Now more than ever, we
need to give educators the support they need to stand up against
pressures from special interests, parents, or their state leaders to
teach ideas not based on scientific evidence."

As Education Week observed (September 13, 2018), "this isn't a new
position for the NSTA; rather, it's a compilation and reiteration of
its beliefs." But NSTA's Evans emphasized the importance of the
statement as showing that "the largest organization of science
teachers responsible for opinions and policy on science education
feels strongly" about the issue.

Among the references cited in the new statement are Mixed Messages,
the top-line report on the NCSE/Penn State survey on climate change
education, and NCSE's on-line Voices for Climate Change Education, as
well as articles in BioScience and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
coauthored by NCSE's deputy director Glenn Branch.

Branch told Inside Climate News (September 13, 2018) that he hoped
that the statement would empower teachers. If pressured not to teach
climate change properly, he said, a teacher could reply, "I'm a
professional ... I have responsibilities to my profession, and my
professional organization, the NSTA[,] says this is what I should be

For NSTA's statement on climate change and its press release, visit: 

For the story in Education Week, visit: 

For the NCSE references in NSTA's statement, visit: 

For the story in Inside Climate News, visit: 

And for NCSE's resources on climate change, visit: 


In a column (September 11, 2018) for Education Week, NCSE's executive
director Ann Reid warned of the obstacles to effective climate change
education -- campaigns to promote doubt and denial, inadequate
preparation provided for teachers, and the ideological polarization of
public opinion.

But she also cited three facts that "offer hope for the future": the
documented interest of science teachers in learning about climate
science, the abundance of evidence enabling climate change to be
taught in any middle or high school science class, and the affirmation
of climate change by people with different religious and political

Reid concluded, "if we work together to help teachers learn and
confidently teach the science, the next generation not only will be
fully informed, but also will have gained the experience of scientific
thinking and problem-solving that will help them meet the challenges
they will face in a warming world."

For Reid's column, visit: 

And for NCSE's resources on climate change, visit: 

Thanks for reading. And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution and climate education and threats to them.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
1904 Franklin Street, Suite 600
Oakland CA 94612-2922
fax 510-788-7971 

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