Arizona super­in­tendent of public instruction Diane Douglas pre­sented science and history stan­dards based off of Hills­dale’s Barney Charter School Ini­tiative.  Wiki­media Commons

Protests erupted Monday when Arizona’s super­in­tendent of public instruction pro­posed a draft of science and history edu­cation stan­dards modeled off of Hillsdale’s Barney Charter School Scope and Sequence stan­dards to the Arizona Department of Edu­cation.

Teachers, parents, and the Secular Coalition of Arizona rallied to protest the drafts, expressing concern that the stan­dards would exclude evo­lution and climate change from the science cur­riculum, should they be approved. If approved, the stan­dards would apply to kinder­garten through 12th grade stu­dents in Arizona public schools.

Diane Douglas, the super­in­tendent who pro­posed the stan­dards, said she does not believe the state’s department of edu­cation will pass the newly-drafted stan­dards, but she said proposing them was “the right thing to do.”

“I don’t have a lot of time left in office, and I’m at the point where I need to start telling tough truths and leave our kids in a good place,” Douglas said.

Douglas said the pro­testers crit­i­cized “what they incor­rectly believed I put into our science stan­dards draft.” Though the Barney Charter Schools are not private reli­gious schools, Douglas said pro­testers were also leary about the stan­dards because Hillsdale is a private Christian school.

But evo­lution and climate change are included in the drafted stan­dards, Douglas said.

Though Douglas has sub­scribed to Hillsdale College’s Imprimis pub­li­cation for more than a decade, she only became aware of the Barney Charter School Ini­tiative when the faculty of Lake Havasu City Dis­trict Schools in Arizona sent her a copy of the Barney Initiative’s Scope and Sequence science edu­cation stan­dards. After reading over the stan­dards, Douglas said she knew she wanted to use them as a basis for Arizona’s statewide stan­dards for kinder­garten through 12th grade public school cur­riculum.

“I thought, ‘This is phe­nomenal, this is what children need to be learning,’” Douglas said. “Edu­cation stan­dards shouldn’t be written in words that only teachers under­stand.”

Last December, Douglas called Phil Kilgore, director of the Barney Charter Schools Ini­tiative, and asked if she could use the Scope and Sequence stan­dards as a basis for stan­dards in the state of Arizona. Kilgore said he was happy to share it.

“When I first started looking at the stan­dards and speaking with Kilgore, I was sur­prised that evo­lution was in the cur­riculum; however, I under­stand exactly where Hillsdale is coming from,” Douglas said. “I see in it the even-hand­edness that I would want to see in any stan­dards that we have.”

Kilgore sup­ported teaching evo­lution in the Barney Charter schools, which are all char­tered by state public school dis­tricts.

“We don’t run away from it, even though it is con­tentious, and some fam­ilies who come here bristle at it,” Kilgore said.

Matthew Young, Hillsdale College’s chem­istry department chair and asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­istry, helped create the Barney Charter School’s science cur­riculum stan­dards.

“Evo­lution is not con­tro­versial,” Young said.

He added that the dichotomy between evo­lution and the­istic world­views is false, and edu­ca­tional stan­dards like those at Hillsdale can help to combat it.

In December 2016, Douglas helped pass new math and English lan­guage arts stan­dards for the state of Arizona. After­wards, she began working on the science and social studies stan­dards, neither of which had been examined for more than 14 years.

Specif­i­cally, Douglas said she would like to emphasize the history of science and the sci­en­tific method in the new edu­cation stan­dards.

“I hope the state board of edu­cation will con­sider and read through the stan­dards over the course of the next month,” Douglas said. “Ulti­mately, my rec­om­men­dation will be the Hillsdale stan­dards.”