KINGMAN - The conservative colors of Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal shone through Wednesday as he discussed the continuing issues he has with some areas of Common Core and his growing concern about the students involved in recent school shootings.
Huppenthal has been superintendent for three years and is running again this fall against Diane Douglas, a Republican and former Peoria Unified School District board member who opposes Common Core. Huppenthal spoke at the Mohave Republican Forum, where he answered questions about the controversial national educational system that was implemented last year in Arizona.
Common Core's standards were created by a consortium of teachers, business leaders and education experts from 46 states, including Arizona, to toughen up standards for math, English and writing from kindergarten through grade 12. Indiana recently became the first state to opt out of the national program.
The Arizona Common Core standards are based on the national standards and were adopted by the state Board of Education in 2010 without input from the Arizona Legislature. In September, Gov. Jan Brewer attempted to calm protests against it by renaming it "Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards" and reaffirming that Arizona is acting independently from the federal government.
At the forum, Huppenthal said that while he unequivocally supports the English/language arts and math standards of Common Core, he has problems with its history and science standards because of their questionable definition of America's founding fathers and the Constitution and their unbalanced debate on climate change.
"I do not support indoctrinating people into automatically believing that man causes global warming," said Huppenthal. "I believe that climate change is an incredible opportunity to teach our students robust science - how to dig into both sides of that debate and understand how bias gets injected into scientific inquiry, how bias is being injected into the climate change inquiry and how to separate fact from fiction in the climate change debate."
Also, he does not support the Common Core mandates given to teachers that tell them how to guide students to reach the English/language arts and math standards.
The issue of data mining also came up during the forum, and Huppenthal reassured the audience that any data collected on students belongs to them and their parents, and can only be given out to teachers with their permission. Huppenthal said the state keeps a limited amount of data that does not include gun registration, marital status or political preference information. And it is never shared with the federal government, added Huppenthal.
During the forum, state Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman, told Huppenthal about a recent meeting she had with the commander of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. Goodale, who will not seek reelection after her term expires in December, said she asked the commander what he saw as the biggest problem with young recruits. The man immediately said they were not resilient to life's problems.
"Kids think everything is a death blow - the girlfriend breaks up with him, the sergeant yells at him, and life's over," said Goodale. "I think we saw that played out in New Jersey this past weekend when a young man stabbed to death a girl who would not go to the prom with him. I'm very concerned about kids not understanding how to be resilient."
Huppenthal agreed, noting his agency offers an Excellence in Civic Engagement program and schools are flocking to participate in it. He said educators want children to have the character that made America strong. They also want to bring back spirituality, ethics, the rule of law and good work ethics among students, he added.
"This issue of resiliency, character and spiritual development is what we're concerned about in society right now, especially with the direction we see this country going," said Huppenthal. "We're very concerned about basic American values that have held us firm for more than 200 years and we see slipping away. We are working as hard as we can to restore those."