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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Creationism Still Being Taught in Science Class

One in eight high school biology teachers are teaching creationism as a valid scientific alternative to evolution, according to a new survey in the journal PLoS Biology. Penn State political scientist Michael Berkman and his colleagues found that how—and how much— evolution is taught in public schools depends less on court rulings and state science standards than it does on the teachers' religious beliefs and education.
If the reaction to Florida's new science standards taught us anything, it's that state regulations often don't affect what happens in the science classroom; no matter what courts rule or school boards decide, it's up to teachers to decide how they'll implement the curriculum and integrate textbooks into their teaching.
And to a large degree, the researchers found, those decisions depend on personal beliefs. According to the survey, about one in six teachers still believe humans were created by God within the last 10,000 years. These teachers spend 35 percent fewer hours on evolution than other teachers do. Teachers with a stronger background in science, however—especially those who have taken a course in evolutionary biology—spend 60 percent more class time on evolution than those with the weakest science backgrounds.
The answer, then, the authors argue, might be to raise the certification standards for teachers and to require that they take an evolutionary biology course. —Heather Wax