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Unformatted text preview: 28 JANUARY 2011 VOL 331 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org 404 EDUCATION FORUM J ust over 5 years ago, the scientifi c com- munity turned its attention to a courtroom in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Eleven par- ents sued their Dover, Pennsylvania, school board to overturn a policy explicitly legiti- mizing intelligent design creationism. The case, Kitzmiller v. Dover , followed a familiar script: Local citizens wanted their religious values validated by the science curriculum; prominent academics testifi ed to the scien- tifi c consensus on evolution; and creation- ists lost decisively. Intelligent design was not science, held the court, but rather an effort to advance a religious view via public schools, a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Estab- lishment Clause ( 1 ). Many scientists cheered the decision, agreeing with the court that the school board displayed “breathtaking inan- ity” [p. 765 ( 1 )]. We suggest that the cheering was premature and the victory incomplete. Systematic Undermining of Science Creationism has lost every major U.S. fed- eral court case for the past 40 years, and state curricular standards have improved ( 2 ). But considerable research suggests that sup- porters of evolution, scientifi c methods, and reason itself are losing battles in America’s classrooms, where instruction in evolution- ary biology “has been absent, cursory, or fraught with misinformation” [p. 21 ( 3 ), and ( 4 )]. Extending this research, we have been investigating the evolution-creationism bat- tle in state governments ( 5 ) and the nation’s classrooms ( 2 , 6 ). Central to this research is the National Survey of High School Biology teachers, based on a nationally representa- tive probability sample of 926 public high school biology instructors ( 2 , 6 ) (see the fi g- ure). [See supporting online material (SOM) for details.] The data reveal a pervasive reluc- tance of teachers to forthrightly explain evo- lutionary biology. The data further expose a cycle of igno- rance in which community antievolution attitudes are perpetuated by teaching that reinforces local community sentiment. For example, we ranked school districts from least to most socially conservative, and in the 15% most socially conservative school dis- tricts, nearly 4 in 10 teachers personally do not accept human evolution (compared with 11% in the least conservative districts) and, consequently, devote only minimal time to evolutionary biology in their classes [table A8.2 in ( 2 )]. The next generation of adults is thus predisposed to share the antievolution views of their parents. More promising data suggest that Amer- ica’s high schools contain thousands of out- standing, effective educators of evolution- ary biology. We estimate that 28% of all biology teachers consistently implement the major recommendations and conclusions of the National Research Council ( 7 ): They unabashedly introduce evidence that evolu- tion has occurred and craft lesson plans so that evolution is a theme that unifi...
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