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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Study: Biology teachers reluctant to endorse evolution in class



evo_skull.jpgOn the heels of this week's news about poor science scores in the U.S. and Florida comes this sad nugget: The majority of public high school biology teachers are not strong advocates of evolutionary biology and often avoid controversy by not teaching it thoroughly, says a new study in today's issue of Science magazine. (You have to be a subscriber to see it, but here's the next best thing: a write up about the study in ScienceDaily.)

Past studies/surveys came to similar conclusions, but the latest suggests things aren't changing despite persistent calls, from the president on down, for better science education. According to the ScienceDaily piece, 28 percent of high school biology teachers follow National Research Council recommendations in teaching evolution, while 13 percent "explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light."

The rest are cautious - understandably, the study's authors say - but as a result don't teach it well: "The cautious 60 percent fail to explain the nature of scientific inquiry, undermine the authority of established experts, and legitimize creationist arguments ... they may play a far more important role in hindering scientific literacy in the United States than the smaller number of explicit creationists."

Back when debate was raging over Florida's new science standards in 2008 - which for the first time include a thorough treatment of evolution - we talked to a ton of science teachers about how they handled the issue in their classrooms. We haven't revisited the issue. Is it harder now with the news standards in place?

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[Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 5:21pm]


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