An unsettling Penn State University study published last week indicates that one of of eight biology (biology!) teachers reject evolution. Thirteen percent of 926 participants in the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers said they openly taught creationism or its kissing cousin intelligent design in the classroom.
Equally disturbing is the fact that 60 percent of biology teachers said they don’t teach much about evolution at all out of fear of offending religiously fundamentalist students and their families. From LiveScience:
Only 28 percent of high school biology teachers followed the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences recommendations on teaching evolution, which include citing evidence that evolution occurred and teaching evolution thematically, as a link between various biology topics.
As one Michigan biology teacher infuriatingly told researchers, ”I don’t teach the theory of evolution in my life science classes, nor do I teach the Big Bang Theory in my [E]arth [S]cience classes… We do not have time to do something that is at best poor science.”
Sadly, the high numbers of openly proselytizing teachers doesn’t surprise me. I’ve run into far too many educators who view the classroom as their own personal church pulpit. And until a student is willing to stand up to this religious bullying and blatant violation of the First Amendment, there’s not a lot that can be done.
But for the 60 percent of teachers who are too timid to take a strong stance on evolution, researchers have said that many of them do not feel confident about their own education on the subject to teach it.
The study’s authors suggest that states should require all education majors to take a stand-alone evolution course at the university level before they can become science teachers, while school systems should offer follow-up refresher courses for those already teaching. Extra evolution courses would encourage teachers to embrace evolutionary biology, and make it easier to teach confidently, Berkman said.