Cans and Can'ts of Teaching Evolution

by Eugenie C. Scott

High school teachers are in a quandary about teaching evolution. Sometimes they are pressed to teach creation "science" or "intelligent design theory", or "evidence against evolution"; sometimes they are pressed just to forget about teaching evolution. What should a teacher do? What, legally, can and can't a teacher do?

Teach the "Controversy?"

Whether providing students with an opportunity to evaluate the scientific credibility of creationism actually advances their understanding of evolution depends on the level of students, the objective of the assignment, and how the assignment is designed. Research indicates (Verhey 2005) college students gain a better understanding of why evolution is accepted science, and why creationism, creation science, and intelligent design are not appropriate scientific topics when given an opportunity to examine antievolutionist claims.

Links for Teachers

Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes (ENSI)
Originally NSF-funded, the ENSI program focused on teaching teachers about the nature of science, using evolution as the exemplar. A site for teachers by other teachers. Lots of classroom-tested exercises.

Monarch Watch
A collaboration between the University of Kansas and local teachers and citizens focusing around the life cycle, migration, ecology and adaptations of the monarch butterfly.

Opting Out - Not!

Dear NCSE: I teach 9th grade biology and the principal informed me that in response to the request of a parent, a student in my class has been given permission to opt out of the evolution section.

Science and Evolution

According to the National Science Board's 2002 study Science and Engineering Indicators, only one-third of Americans can adequately explain what it means to study something scientifically. As a nation, we are easy prey for those promoting pseudoscientific claims, and the National Science Board survey blames education and the media for this.

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