A whopping 12.5% of the nation's high school biology teachers teach creationism as valid science, according to new data released by the Public Library of Science. For this research, 939 high school biology teachers were asked a number of specific questions regarding how they handle the teaching of evolution in their classroom.
The study draws a number of interesting conclusions; that state science standards have much less influence on the amount of time spent teaching evolution than the teacher's biology coursework or religious beliefs, and that biology teachers are substantially less likely to be creationists than the general population.
What I found most interesting were four questions whose responses are graphed below the fold.
Of the 939 high school biology teachers surveyed, 224 acknowledged that class time was devoted to discussing intelligent design/creationism. The question has been, are these teachers using that discussion time to promote ID/creationism as science, or to show students the fallacies which comprise ID/creationism? This particular study delved deeper into the attitudes of those 224 by determining how ID/creationism was addressed in the classroom.
This first question was the most disturbing: 48% of those biology teachers emphasize to their students that ID/creationism is valid science.
Likewise, 49% of those biology teachers who do discuss ID/creationism in class emphasize that many reputable scientists accept ID/creationism instead of evolution.
Question C is confusing. "I acknowledge them [intelligent design or creationism] as valid religious perspectives, but which are not appropriate for a science class." It seems that a teacher stating, "some people believe in ID/creationism as part of their religion, but it's not appropriate to teach it as science" is much different that stating "ID/creationism is The Truth but we're not allowed to teach it because those atheists will sue us."
And, only 32% emphasize that the majority of scientists reject ID/creationism as a scientific theory.
It seems obvious that although those teachers might give lip service to the state standards, when push comes to shove - and they can respond anonymously, without fear of being held accountable for their classroom actions - they'll teach creationism and shade the truth about evolution at every opportunity.
What can we do?
*Parents: pay attention to what happens in your local science classroom. Check out the study guides, quizzes & tests administered to your child to see how these topics are addressed . . . or ignored. Ask to sit in on a class. When/if ID/creationism is handled inappropriately, notify the administration and ask for that teacher to be reminded of his/her professional responsibilities. If that fails, notify your local ACLU rep.
*Teachers: help your coworkers understand that teaching ID/creationism is against the law. Give a heads-up to your administration that the school district could be liable if one of their teachers is found to be violating that law.
*Scientists: Offer help to your local science teachers. Let them know of some of the cool and exciting stuff happening in your field, and work to build a solid rapport with them. Many high school teachers are hesitant to invite in scientists because they're afraid their weaknesses will become glaringly obvious.
Too many of these students will hear bastardized versions of science from other sources. We simply can't risk not discussing ID/creationism in science class; however, we must do so responsibly and ethically, without lying to students by telling them that ID/creationism is science.
Edited 5/20 to add link to PLoS data