Sunday, April 22, 2012

Are we actually teaching evolution in Delaware classrooms?

Recently I posted on the fact that, in Biology classes across the nation, evolution is taught as a major staple of science and the scientific method in only 28% of American classrooms.

Given that in Delaware we have a large constituency of folks who are aggressively creationist, and who even managed to push a creationist candidate onto the ballot for US Senate two years ago, it is appropriate to look at what the Delaware Science Standards actually say is supposed to be taught in our schools.

I quote the high-school science standards (#7, which you can download here), focusing on those elements deemed essential in the document:




A. Evolution is a change in allelic frequencies of a population over time.  The theory of evolution is supported by extensive biochemical, structural, embryological, and fossil evidence.
Level:  Essential
B.  The great diversity of organisms is the result of more than 3.5 billion years of evolution that has filled every available niche with life forms.  The millions of different species of plants, animals, and microorganisms that live on Earth today are related by descent with modification from common ancestors.
Level:  Essential
C.  The process of natural selection occurs when some heritable variations that arise from random mutation and recombination give individuals within a species some survival advantages over others. These offspring with advantageous adaptations are more likely to survive and reproduce, thus increasing the proportion of individuals within a population with advantageous characteristics.
Level:  Essential

Pay particular attention of Item B above, which in two sentences covers the salient aspects of our best current scientific understanding of how the world works, including these elements:

--3.5 billion years of evolution (which implies the Earth is 4 billion years old and came into existence as the result of natural processes)

--existing species are the result by descent with modification from common ancestors

This is what is supposed to be taught in Delaware public schools.

No room for creationism or intelligent design, no "teach the controversy" mumbo-jumbo.

The question is, are we teaching it?

It is a critical question because, as Gallup has repeatedly found, only 9% of all Americans with only a high school education believe in evolution as a natural process, and a recent Penn State survey discovered that on 28% of Biology teachers nationwide are seriously teaching evolution to national and state standards.


How do we find out if Biology teachers in Delaware belong to the 28% teaching evolution or the 73% who either do not teach it or do not emphasize it?


I'm not sure, but I offer this thought:  we are currently expending so much energy in Delaware debating school choice, charter schools, RTTT, and all the other political/policy arguments that involve millions of dollars and Federal intervention . . . and we are spending little or no oversight effort on the actual teaching of curriculum in our schools.


That needs to change.





1 comment:

Dana Garrett said...

You make some good points here, Steve. I think it is vital that we teach evolution in our schools, and people who care about this in Delaware should have a way to check if we are complying with these requirements.