It's a nice day, right? Let's start some fights

The Arizona Republic

Robert Robb, Republic columnist
Aug. 26, 2005 12:00 AM

Opening up new controversies while tidying up an old one:

 Arizona business organizations are making a big mistake trying to overturn a recent Arizona Supreme Court decision holding that injured employees cannot be denied workers' compensation because they used drugs or alcohol.

Workers' compensation is intended to provide no-fault compensation to employees for on-the-job injuries. Employee negligence isn't a factor in determining eligibility for compensation, and employer negligence isn't a factor in determining the amount of compensation.

Business advocates cannot expect to introduce the question of employee negligence without also raising the issue of employer negligence.

Employers, of course, have the deeper pockets. With today's attenuated standards of negligence, they have much more to lose than to gain by opening up this debate.

 Some staunch evolutionists who don't believe in fair argumentation claim that intelligent design is nothing more than warmed-over creationism. But there are important substantive and tactical differences between the two.

ID, unlike creationism, accepts that the Earth has existed for billions of years and life on Earth for millions of years. Additionally, ID accepts that life on Earth has changed, or evolved, through natural selection, adaptation and mutation.

ID does hold that some of what is currently found in life is not well or best explained by such processes. But that's a much narrower disagreement with evolution as a complete and exclusive explanation for the current condition of life than creationism has. Creationism holds that God created life, as it is currently found, a scant 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Moreover, ID, unlike creationism, isn't trying to stop evolution from being taught in public schools. In fact, it holds that evolution should be taught in public schools. Instead, it seeks to add its reservations to the discussion.

There are still fair arguments to be made against adding ID to science courses in public schools. Disputing ID claims about the shortcomings of evolution is obviously fair game. And the objection that ID's theory - that certain biological phenomena are best explained as the willed outcome of a designer - isn't subject to testing through the scientific method and therefore should not be part of a science curriculum is well within bounds.

But the argument that intelligent design is the same as creationism, and presents the same public policy issues, is simply false.

 The national task force on education Gov. Janet Napolitano co-chaired recommended that students spend more time in school, through a longer school year with shorter breaks and even a longer school day.

Too bad Napolitano isn't pushing that in Arizona, rather than trying to shift funding for all-day kindergarten from local school districts to the state. There's also clearly a developing political storm for more state funding for preschool and early childhood development.

In reality, American kids measure up decently on international comparisons in the early grades. The falloff begins, nationally and in Arizona, in the middle grades.

More time spent in school, if productively employed, should be able to do something about that.

 Last Sunday, in a letter to the editor taking issue with a column I had written about English-learner funding, Tim Hogan, Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest's chief litigator, accused me of making up my claim that a legislative study didn't cost out structured English immersion and found that Arizona school districts weren't establishing separate SEI classrooms as envisioned by Proposition 203.

Hogan's mistake is perhaps partly understandable, since the study itself confused SEI as contemplated by Proposition 203 with current English as a Second Language programs.

The financial issue involved in separate SEI classrooms is whether, after the students are divided between those English proficient and those deficient, there is a need for more classrooms and teachers. The study made no attempt to sort this out.

Instead, it priced out the sort of coping mechanisms - additional classroom aides and pullout instructors, even translators - associated with the current prevailing practice of leaving English learners in a regular classroom. SEI, as contemplated by Proposition 203, should have less need for such coping mechanisms, since all resources in SEI classrooms, including instruction in other subjects, are to be devoted to English acquisition.

But as to whether Arizona schools are implementing separate SEI classrooms as envisioned by Proposition 203, the study couldn't be more plainspoken about the result of its survey: "Most schools did not have SEI classrooms with only ELL (English-language learner) students. In some schools, every class was designated an SEI classroom, with both ELL and non-ELL students in attendance."

Hogan must have skipped over that part.

Reach Robb at or (602) 444-8472. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.