There’s a very encouraging article in Nature, and it’s a tribute to our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Their headline is Good news: US classrooms are warming to evolution, thanks in part to scientist outreach. It was written by Ann Reid, NCSE’s executive director. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:
At a time when misinformation seems to be ascendant, a decades-long effort aided by the scientific community is bearing fruit. Results published on 10 June show that the proportion of US secondary-school biology teachers who present creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to evolution fell from 32% in 2007 to 18% in 2019. And the amount of class time devoted to human evolution shot up by almost 90%.
As her source for those statistics, Reid cites an article in a journal from the publisher of Nature. It was written by her, Glenn Branch (NCSE’s deputy director), and Eric Plutzer, of Penn State University: Teaching evolution in U.S. public schools: a continuing challenge. Reid says:
Evolution teaches children that they and all living things have the same common ancestors, and that they and their fellow humans are much more similar than they are different. The genetic variation within the groups that we designate as races is much larger than that between those groups. Imagine a world in which every student learns this.
Quite a contrast from creationists, who — unlike their openly racist predecessors a few decades ago — now claim that creationism teaches we’re all the same, and Darwin was the author of racism. Anyway, Reid tells us:
Teachers’ practices have shifted partly as a result of scientists stepping up. Working closely with teacher groups, scientists have united to advocate for education policies, advise on classroom resources and help rally public opinion.
Skipping a few paragraphs, she continues:
In 2014, my conviction that understanding evolutionary theory is core to scientific literacy led to my becoming executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, California. This non-profit organization is devoted to ensuring that evolution (and, more recently, climate change) is taught accurately in US public schools. It was founded in the early 1980s, when advocacy for teaching creationism alongside evolution was spreading. [The Institute for Creation Research was founded in 1970, and the Discovery Institute in 1990.] We and allies made the case against creationism to textbook publishers, school boards, federal judges and more.
Let’s read on:
In 2005, a federal court found that ‘intelligent design’ (like its ancestor, ‘creation science’) lacks scientific merit and is a religious belief. [That was Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.] Hence, it cannot, constitutionally, be taught in science classrooms in public schools. Two years later, researchers at Pennsylvania State University in University Park surveyed teachers to learn how evolution was being taught. The results were shocking: only 51% were unequivocally teaching the scientific consensus that evolution is a fact. Clearly, there was work to do.
There was indeed work to do — a lot of work. Another excerpt:
This week’s results are from a similar survey, which the NCSE commissioned last year. They show a rise not only in the time spent teaching evolution, but also in the proportion of educators emphasizing the scientific consensus (now 67%). Clearly, things are moving in the right direction.
Much credit is due to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of benchmarks released in 2011 that emphasizes evolution as a core concept. The 44 US states that have adopted these, or standards based on the same framework, have seen the greatest improvements.
There’s more, but we’ve excerpted enough. We congratulate our friends at NCSE on a job well done — so far — and we encourage them to carry on, because as they remind us, there’s still more to be done. Hey — we haven’t seen any creationist posts about this news. Why is that?
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