In a 9 August 2007 Boston Globe editorial, health and science writer Sally Lehrman provided her fellow residents of Massachusetts a warning that should be heeded by all advocates for science education: “A well-thought out curriculum in science does not guarantee that evolution will be taught in all its glory — or even coherently.”
Lehrman expressed concerns that even in Massachusetts, a state noted for its excellent science standards, teachers licensed for biology are not required to take a course in evolution to be certified. She pointed out 2007 state statistics that indicate “11 percent of schools had assigned at least one-fifth of teachers outside of their expertise.” Moreover, in a 2006 AAAS survey, many teachers nationwide revealed that they do not feel confident in their knowledge about evolution.
Lehrman argued that concerns about teaching evolution should not be limited to places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kansas where high-profile creationism vs. evolution battles have taken place in local public school districts and court rooms.
Despite the landmark December 2005 Federal Court ruling in the Kitzmiller (Dover, PA) case that devastated the intelligent design-in-the-classroom movement, and numerous defeats experienced by anti-evolution candidates in state school board elections last November, intelligent design and creationism proponents have persevered. Advocates for science education should take notice that organizations such as the Seattle-based Discovery Institute have altered their tactics and rhetoric in order to continue promoting their pseudo-scientific ideas in the science classroom.
Most recently, the Discovery Institute has begun distributing a new textbook entitled, “Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against New-Darwinism.” Rather than blatantly endorsing creationism or intelligent design, the Discovery Institute encourages science educators to “teach the controversy,” emphasizing the process of critical inquiry when teaching evolution. According to promotional materials, the textbook examines fossil succession, anatomical homology, embryology, natural selection, and mutation, and then, for each of these areas, “explains the evidence and arguments that lead some scientists to question the adequacy of Darwinian explanation.”
Science education advocates everywhere should remain vigilant in order to thwart attempts by anti-science advocates to introduce “Explore Evolution” as a required or supplemental text in their state biology curricula.
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