"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Teachers Who Deserve to Be Fired--But Won't

From Wired, ht to Raw Story:
One in eight U.S. high school teachers presents creationism as a valid alternative to evolution, says a poll published in the Public Library of Science Biology.

Of more than 900 teachers who responded to a poll conducted by Penn State University political scientist Michael Berkman and colleagues, 32 percent agreed that creationism and intelligent design should be taught as scientifically unsound. Forty percent said such explanations are religiously valid but inappropriate for science class.

However, 25 percent said they devoted classroom time to creationism or intelligent design. Of these, about one-half -- 12 percent of all teachers -- called creationism a "valid scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species," and the same number said that "many reputable scientists view these as valid alternatives to Darwinian theory." (The full study makes for interesting reading: Evolution and Creationism in America’s Classrooms: A National Portrait.

Longtime Wired Science readers know that I'm less bothered than many science writers at the possibility of evolution being under-taught in science and biology courses. So long as a teacher imparts a sense of wonder and curiosity, the details will follow. However, teaching creationism or intelligent design alongside evolution, as if religious explanations had even a fraction of the scientific validity of evolution, is unacceptable -- it promotes fatally flawed, uncritical thinking.

What to do?

The study's authors note that courtroom victories -- classroom creationism has consistently been struck down in U.S. courts -- is apparently insufficient to guarantee an accurate depiction of evolution. Nor will rigorous state science standards, like those recently passed in Florida, do the trick. Instead they recommend teacher certification requiring the completion of an evolutionary biology course. . . . .

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