Oddly, curriculum–what is taught–is rarely discussed when the subject of educational ‘reform’ is broached. It’s odd, since most reformers, when trying to push their agenda, spend a good deal of time figuring out what to communicate and how to communicate it (like most of us). Yet, how one teaches and what one teaches never seems to enter into the discussion, even though it’s pretty critical to educational success. So maybe the reformers could actually do something useful and tackle this problem:
We can now say how many high school biology teachers do a good job, teaching the recommendations of the National Research Council and also, by the way, obeying the requirements of most state science standards: 28%. About a quarter of our biology teachers are actually discussing the evidence that evolution occurred and using evolution as a theme to integrate the components of a good year of biology instruction. And since most school curricula only include one year of life science, that effectively means that only about a quarter of our high school graduates are even exposed to evolutionary biology.
There’s also another problem. 13% of our biology teachers are openly and unashamedly creationists who teach creationism in the classroom. That number varies, by the way, with the political leanings of the citizens of the school district: 40% of the teachers in conservative school districts reject evolution entirely, while “only” 11% in liberal areas do. This is a disaster. This is active, ongoing miseducation and misrepresentation of science by the teachers we entrust with our children.
What about the rest? 60% of our teachers do nothing: they teach the bare minimum of evolution that they can get away with, focusing on details of genetics and molecular biology that allow them to avoid the more obvious implications (which shouldn’t happen, either; the molecular evidence for evolution is powerful stuff), or they allow it to slip off the schedule of lesson plans. They’re afraid, and rightly so, of aggressive, nasty, privileged religious parents who will make their life hellish if they do their job properly.
So, will the reformers do anything about the scourge of creationism?
Probably not: they have more important things to do, like bust unions….