In the first post, I outlined why I think evolution is important and a few reasons why I think people refuse to accept it. In this post, I will discuss a little more about why it is not taught much in Arkansas and the rest of the United States and what you can expect from this website to help change that.
Teachers make a difference in the classroom, what they teach and what they believe affects their students. Thus, it is disconcerting that only 28% of public school biology teachers consistently teach evolution according to the National Research Council science standards, with 13% actively teaching creationism, despite it being illegal. A full 60% ignore the topic altogether. This perhaps explains why the United States trails most other countries in science aptitude. Arkansas is on average a conservative state, with lower than average income and education levels, and so it is no surprise that Arkansas is below average in science aptitude as well.
So why do so many educators fail to teach evolution in their classes, particularly in Arkansas? There are several reasons. Educators often avoid teaching or only give a cursory introduction to these subjects out of personal ignorance and/or religious beliefs. Many of those who do teach it are unaware they are teaching highly inaccurate and out of date material and must contend with outright hostility from school administrators and parents who do not themselves understand or accept evolution. More than 20% of Arkansas secondary teachers are teaching out of their certified field and the requirements for certification are low to begin with (Arkansas is not alone in this and in fact is only marginally higher than the national average). For example, elementary teachers are often not required to have had any science beyond the minimum standards for their college education degree. Home schooling is also becoming more prevalent, with education provided by parents or informal educators with typically little training in either science or education. It’s also not enough to simply know the facts. There is a long path from the content to education. Getting students to learn accurate information requires passing through a number of filters. Even before that can happen, people have to realize that what they intuitively believe may not be right and their gut feelings may be wrong.
How can we combat this problem? We cannot expect educators with little training in schools or homes that are cash-strapped and lacking resources to do a good job on their own. So we help them by providing resources they can access online for free (preferably) or small fees (if necessary). The internet is full of resources to fill every need and educators in the know can access myriad sources of knowledge and lesson plans. But the key to this is “in the know.” The internet is also full of misleading and false information. How is an educator that feels insufficiently prepared (be that learning the material, just looking for new ways to teach it, or wanting to provide additional resources for students and parents) to sort through the chaff and find the kernels of quality material? That’s where we come in, we can help them be “in the know.”
This website is designed to provide information on resources that have been checked by content experts, so educators, parents, and students may be able to rely on the information. The website will take no position on religion, as it has no bearing on the science and the science is what this is all about. In addition to information on the science itself, information on educational methods, lesson plans, and available resources will be provided. We will help connect scientists with the rest of the public (scientists are people too). We hope to be a lantern in the darkness of confusion, a sieve to separate the gold from the fool’s gold. In the next blog post, I will cover just exactly how we plan to do that.