Epic Fail: Evolution And Creationism In America's Classrooms
It is no exaggeration to call evolution “the central concept of biology.” So why is the fact of evolution denied by half of our population? A new article in PLoS Biology by Michael Berkman, Julianna Pacheco, and Eric Plutzer suggests it might be on account of their lack of education at the high school level. Since only ~25% of the US population obtains a college degree, it is the duty of high school teachers to provide a proper scientific education to our citizens. Model high school curriculum guidelines provided by the National Science Teachers Association, the National Research Council, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, strongly suggest that teachers “provide evidence that evolution has attained its status as a unifying theme in science.” However, teachers that don't "believe" in evolution aren't going to teach it in the classroom. In the paper, Berkman et al. describe the results of the polling 939 high school biology teachers. "Roughly one sixth of all teachers professed a “young earth” personal belief, and about one in eight reported that they teach creationism or intelligent design in a positive light. The number of hours devoted to these alternative theories is typically low—but this nevertheless must surely convey to students that these theories should be accorded respect as scientific perspectives." Why do these teachers fail to contribute proper instruction in evolution? The article suggests, "that high school teachers who completed the largest number of college-level credits in biology and life science classes and whose coursework included at least one class in evolutionary biology devote substantially more class time to evolution than teachers with fewer credit hours. The best prepared teachers devote 60% more time to evolution than the least prepared." The article concludes that it is incumbent on college educators to provide future high school teachers with a proper education. "Scientists concerned about the quality of evolution instruction might have a bigger impact in the classroom by focusing on the certification standards for high school biology teachers. Our study suggests that requiring all teachers to complete a course in evolutionary biology would have a substantial impact on the emphasis on evolution and its centrality in high school biology courses. In the long run, the impact of such a change could have a more far reaching effect than the victories in courts and in state governments."