Decision to remove evolution from Italian schools reversed


by Nick Matzke

According to a story in the April 29, 2004 La Repubblica, the largest newspaper in Italy, the decision by the Minister of Education and Research, Letizia Moratti, [Link Broken] to drop evolution from the science curriculum in middle school has been reversed. Instead, evolution will be taught beginning with the elementary schools. Minister Moratti has named a commission to be chaired by Nobel laureate Rita Levi Montalcini to provide specific guidance on the subject of evolution.

Controversy erupted in Italy after the revised middle school curriculum was released on February 19. Unlike previous curricula, the revised curriculum made no mention of evolutionary theory. In Italy, middle school spans three years (students aged 11-14 years old), after which students enter either high school or a vocational school. Middle school thus represents the last education shared by all students.

Italian scientists campaigned to get evolution back into the curriculum. The Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Italy's national scientific academy which once counted Galileo as a member, held a discussion on the issue on April 22. Leading Italian scientists, including Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, an NCSE member and the head of the Human Population Genetics Laboratory at Stanford University, drafted and signed a public petition. An online version of the petition had totaled some 16,000 signatures by April 26, 30,000 signatures the next day, and 44,000 signatures by the afternoon of Wednesday, April 28.

Thanks to NCSE Board Member Mike McIlwrath of Florence, Italy, who contributed information to this report. Eugenie Scott also contributed to this report.