Are 72% of biology teachers hindering scientific literacy in the US?
|February 3, 2011||Posted by David Tyler under Intelligent Design|
Some have described the survey as shocking. The authors of the report are gloomy about their findings. The perceived problem is this: evolutionists have won court cases bearing on the teaching of evolution in schools; state curricular standards have been revised to reinforce the status of evolutionary theory in biology – but despite all this, “considerable research suggests that supporters of evolution, scientific methods, and reason itself are losing battles in America’s classrooms”. The problem is that only 28% of teachers are forthrightly explaining evolutionary biology. The situation is deemed to “expose a cycle of ignorance in which community antievolution attitudes are perpetuated by teaching that reinforces local community sentiment”. The recalcitrant teachers are “hindering scientific literacy in the United States”, failing “to explain the nature of scientific inquiry”, undermining “the authority of established experts”, and legitimizing “creationist arguments, even if unintentionally”.
The sheer magnitude of the “problem” raises the question: have the authors read the situation correctly? Are these teachers really falling down badly in their communication of biological science? Words of commendation are reserved only for the 28% of biology teachers who “consistently implement the major recommendations and conclusions of the National Research Council”. These are said to be “outstanding, effective educators of evolutionary biology”. The rest are made up of 13% “at the opposite extreme” (who are creationists and are willing to present creation or intelligent design in a positive light) and the “cautious 60%” who implement “strategies of emphasizing microevolution, justifying the curriculum on the basis of state-wide tests, or “teaching the controversy”.” John Rennie of Scientific American calls these the “mushy middle“. The difficulty I find with all this relates to the value judgments placed on the actions of educators. Should we rather presume that the majority of both the 60% group and the 13% group are committed teachers who seek to promote a love of biological science in their students? It is far more likely that [the report’s authors] Berkman and Plutzer (and Rennie) are drawing erroneous conclusions from their survey and that their comments undermine and insult the work of thousands of dedicated teachers.
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