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"Evolution's lonely battle"


"Evolution's lonely battle in a Georgia classroom," published in the June 28, 2006, issue of The New York Times, discusses the travails of Pat New, a veteran middle school teacher in Dahlonega, Georgia, "who, a year ago, quietly stood up for her right to teach evolution in this rural northern Georgia community, and prevailed." New was pressured by students, parents, teachers, and administrators to downplay her presentation of evolution in her classes, despite the fact that it pervades the assigned textbook and is mandated by the state science standards. Finally, after she submitted a complaint to initiate a grievance under state law, the administration relented, and in the following year she was free from pressure.

New's experience is not atypical: the Times notes that despite the occasional battle that dominates the headlines, "[m]ore commonly, the battling goes on locally, behind closed doors, handled so discreetly that even a teacher working a few classrooms away might not know." Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, observed that a third of the NSTA's membership reported experiencing such pressure. The story also notes that the presence of evolution in state science standards provides teachers with a resource to cite in defense of their teaching: New explained, "What saved me, was I didn't have to argue evolution with these people. All I had to say was, 'I'm following state standards.'"