Monday, May 28, 2018

Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Diane Douglas has to go

It’s been a while since I checked on AZ K–12. I did not like what I found. The Daily Star reported that Arizona educators consider altering evolution references. Here are a few snippets to give you the flavor of what’s going on.

The Arizona Department of Education is considering changes to school science standards, including instances when it may remove or alter references to evolution. The state’s superintendent of public instruction said the proposed changes reflect that parts of evolution are only theory.

The department has replaced some references to evolution with words like “biological diversity” or added qualifiers to the word, according to a draft of the proposed changes.

The standards focus on core science and engineering ideas that teachers then use to form curriculum for public school districts and charter schools, according to the department.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas told KTVK-TV that her personal beliefs like creationism are not projected onto the draft changes.

As Mike Wallace used to say: “Oh, come on!”

I used to think that what we’ve got at the top of K–12 is an airhead. Not any more. I just don’t like anything that’s in Diane Douglas’ head.

This last week Tucson Weekly education columnist David Safier chronicled The Evolution and Devolution of Diane Douglas.

Diane Douglas Devolving
Douglas Devolving

You might recall the contest for Superintendent of Public Instruction. On the D side, we had David Garcia - a US Army vet, a University of Chicago Ph D., and now a faculty member at ASU. He knows lots about education administration. On the R side, we had Diane Douglas, former member of Peoria school board. She managed to dodge interviews, perhaps because she knew nothing about education administration.

Like many of us, Safier thought there was no way for Douglas to win. Her opponent was too qualified and she was so obviously unqualified. And when she did win, we feared the worst.

… I was certain when she took office, she would adopt the racial animus of her predecessors, Horne and Huppenthal, and plunk a pile of soggy teabags on top of their mess.

To my surprise, when Douglas took office, she seemed properly awed by the weight of her responsibility. While she tweaked Ducey and the State School Board mercilessly in the first months of her term, which I thoroughly enjoyed, she adopted a light touch when it came to schools. She didn’t attack TUSD as her predecessors did. She didn’t tear into International Baccalaureate, sex education, history texts, evolution or any of the other right wing bête noires. Instead, she embarked on an education listening tour around the state, where she actually listened. She put out a publication full of mostly sensible suggestions for improving the state’s education system.

I was one of the few people writing from the left who reviewed Douglas favorably, for a few reasons. First, I was mightily relieved. She could have been much, much worse. Second, I thought her educational priorities were generally nonpartisan, pro-teacher and pro-student.

Then came September, 2016, when Trump was in the last month of his campaign. Before then, Douglas pretty much stayed out of electoral contests. This time, she shouted her support for Trump from the rooftops, in a news release sent out via the state email system.

Uh oh.

By 2017, Douglas was in full Trumpian mode. When she released information about Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (aka Voucher on Steroids) to the Arizona Republic, the data revealed hopelessly sloppy record keeping of students’ individual accounts. When the Republic called her on it, she played her Trump card. She called the paper’s criticism “Fake news” and complained about the paper’s “hack media lawyer.”

And now, Douglas and her team have removed references to evolution from the state science standards. In the past she said Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. When she was reminded of her earlier statement in recent stories, her response was, “Fake news.” Of course.

Who knows what we’ll see from Douglas in the next few months? And if she wins a second term in November …

If evolution falls, can the fall of International Baccalaureate—and fact-based history, and reading controversial fiction, and respecting religious pluralism, and upholding gender-neutral policies, and all those other Commie/Socialist features of our government schools—be far behind?

About that graphic above? One of the commenters on Safier’s post wrote “That graphic dehumanizes Ms. Douglas. I would say it’s beneath you, but I rather doubt it is.”

It’s not beneath me.

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