This NY Times editorial follows up on the "background" article I posted the
NY Times, February 4, 2005
Afraid to Discuss Evolution
The fights in scattered school districts over whether to teach creationism
or its rival, called intelligent design, as alternatives to Darwin's theory
of evolution may be obscuring a deeper problem: the tendency of many
districts to duck controversy by avoiding or soft-pedaling any teaching of
evolution at all. Nobody knows the extent of the problem, but an article by
Cornelia Dean in Science Times on Tuesday cites ample evidence that even
when evolution is theoretically part of the curriculum, it is often ignored
or played down in the classroom.
Some teachers duck the subject, lest they get into trouble with school
administrators or fundamentalist parents. Others assign a chapter on
evolution for reading but avoid any discussion in the classroom. Still
others discuss evolutionary concepts without ever mentioning "the E word"
to avoid arousing controversy.
Although most state curriculum standards mandate that evolution be taught,
and standardized tests typically include questions on evolution, some
teachers apparently assume that evolution is a small enough part of the
curriculum that their students can get by without mastering the subject.
Those students remain ignorant of one of the bedrock theories underlying
In some areas of the country, many biology teachers are themselves
believers in creationism. A 1998 doctoral dissertation found that 24
percent of the biology teachers sampled in Louisiana said that creationism
had a scientific foundation and that 17 percent were not sure. Several
surveys have shown that many teachers give at least some instructional time
to creationism or intelligent design out of a sense of fairness.
That serves the students and the nation poorly as they enter an age likely
to be dominated by biology.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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