High school students flunking biology might take some consolation in knowing that most of their teachers would be, too. So suggests a commentary in the January 28th issue of the journal Science by Michael B. Berkman and Eric Plutzer of Pennsylvania State University, who surveyed more than 900 U.S. high school teachers about how they taught evolution. ["Defeating Creationism in the Courtroom, But Not in the Classroom"]
Shockingly, they found that only 28 percent of teachers taught evolution effectively, and 13 percent actually advocated for creationism. The roughly 60 percent in the mushy middle steered around conflicts between evolution and creationism or taught both and let students draw their own conclusions. (Always such a good idea….)
The survey’s crucial insight was that how teachers taught depended far more on than their personal beliefs than on the community curriculum standards that have been the focus of battleground court cases, such as Kitzmiller v. Dover from five years ago.
Berkman and Plutzer recommend requiring all biology teachers to take a prep course in evolution as part of their training: A little extra homework might help timid teachers feel more confident about an idea that’s been a cornerstone of science for more than 150 years.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]