[Taxacom] evolution education

Jeffrey Gunther jmg229 at gmail.com
Sun Feb 6 13:24:55 CST 2011

I am a secondary science education student with a background in organismal
biology, so felt I'd throw in my two cents on this topic. I agree with some
of the already mentioned sentiments that there is a significant problem with
the quality of evolution education and that a lot of it boils down to
teacher and curriculum selection issues as well as a perceived red
state/blue state issue associated with the topic.

However, I would have to say that despite the fact that there is some
terrible evolution education out there, the answer is not giving up on it
until post-secondary education. First off, despite seeing some pretty bad
teaching of evolution, nothing I've seen has actually been bad enough that
it does some active harm, in my opinion. The worst evolution education
simply reinforces the major misconceptions that exist in the general
population. While we obviously don't want these reinforced, the worst case
scenario is a reinforcing of what students are already being exposed to. On
the other hand, a competent high school teacher (which do exist) can
actively try to combat these misconceptions.

I would argue that these misconceptions are well enough ingrained in our
common consciousness that ending the teaching of evolution in high school
would not erase them, at least not in any meaningfully short timeframe. In
addition, as has been previously mentioned, the majority of people don't
ever attend a 4 year college and of those that do attend, some will never
take a biology class. I think that never exposing the majority of people to
evolution will allow the misconceptions to continue unabated and may even
expand the red state/blue state issues by making evolution appear
"privileged", ivory-tower knowledge.

Therefore, I would argue that eliminating evolution from high school science
education at best maintains our current situation, while continuing our
teaching of evolution does no additional harm, but has the potential for
good. I think you could possibly make an argument that we never should've
taught evolution in high school, but now that you have, removing it would
only remove the opportunity to fix the misconceptions that exist in the
general population and could possibly increase tensions between the
perceived "believers" and "nonbelievers". The solution is in better teachers
and better curriculum.

Jeff Gunther

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