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Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science
critiques (beliefs unverifiable by scientific methodology)."
Some argue that "fairness" demands the teaching of creationism along with evolution. But a science curriculum should cover science, not the religious views of particular groups or individuals.
If evolution is taught in schools, shouldn't creationism be givenequal time?
Some religious groups deny that microorganisms cause disease, but the science curriculum should not therefore be altered to reflect this belief. Most people agree that students should be exposed to the best possible scholarship in each field. That scholarship is evaluated by professionals and educators in those fields. In science, scientists as well as educators have concluded that evolution—and only evolution—should be taught in science classes because it is the only scientific explanation for why the universe is the way it is today.
Many people say that they want their children to be exposed to creationism in school, but there are thousands of different ideas about creation among the world's people. Comparative religions might comprise a worthwhile field of study but not one appropriate for a science class. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution states that schools must be religiously neutral, so legally a teacher could not present any particular creationist view as being more "true" than others.
Why should teachers teach evolution when they already have so manythings to teach and can cover biology without mentioning evolution?
Teachers face difficult choices in deciding what to teach in their limited time, but some ideas are of central importance in each discipline. In biology, evolution is such an idea. Biology is sometimes taught as a list of facts, but if evolution is introduced early in a class and in an uncomplicated manner, it can tie many disparate facts together. Most important, it offers a way to understand the astonishing complexity, diversity, and activity of the modern world. Why are there so many different types of organisms? What is the response of a species or community to a changing environment? Why is it so difficult to develop antibiotics and insecticides that are useful for more than a decade or two? All of these questions are easily discussed in terms of evolution but are difficult to answer otherwise.
A lack of instruction about evolution also can hamper students when they need that information to take other classes, apply for college or medical school, or make decisions that require a knowledge of evolution.
Should students be given lower grades for not believing in evolution?
No. Children's personal views should have no effect on their grades. Students are not under a compulsion to accept evolution. A grade reflects a teacher's assessment of a student's understanding. If a child does not understand the basic ideas of evolution, a grade could and should reflect that lack of understanding, because it is quite possible to comprehend things that are not believed.
Can evolution be taught in an inquiry-based fashion?
Any science topic can be taught in an inquiry-oriented manner, and evolution is particularly amenable to this approach. At the core of inquiry-oriented instruction is the provision for students to collect data (or be given data when collection is not possible) and to analyze the data to derive patterns, conclusions, and hypotheses, rather than just learning facts. Students can use many data sets from evolution (such as diagrams of anatomical differences in organisms) to derive patterns or draw connections between morphological forms and environmental conditions. They then can use their data sets to test their hypotheses.
Students also can collect data in real time. For example, they can complete extended projects involving crossbreeding of fruit flies or plants to illustrate the genetic patterns of inheritance and the influence of the environment on survival. In this way, students can develop an understanding of evolution, scientific inquiry, and the nature of science.