Evolution education in Massachusetts


In a recent op-ed in the Boston Globe (August 9, 2007), Sally Lehrman discusses the challenges confronting evolution education even in Massachusetts, a state not conspicuous for its level of antievolution activity. "A well-thought-out curriculum in science does not guarantee that evolution will be taught in all its glory -- or even coherently," she observes, noting that science teachers often express a lack of confidence in their knowledge of evolution (as the AAAS president Gilbert S. Omenn reported in 2006) and that in Massachusetts, teachers licensed for biology are not required to have taken a course on evolution.

Massachusetts's science standards received a grade of A from the Fordham Foundation in 2005, and its treatment of evolution received a score of 3/3, with the comment, "Especially impressive for instruction in biological diversity and evolution is the recently posted high school material, free as it is of common errors and glosses." But Lehrman observes, "Some teachers assign their evolution module a slot at the end of the year, then run out of time. Some speed right through it," for, as NCSE's Education Project Director Louise Mead told Lehrman, "The state standards say nothing about what goes on in the classroom."

Complicating the situation even in Massachusetts are the efforts of creationists. Lehrman notes the very latest tactic: "A new high-school textbook from the Discovery Institute, Explore Evolution, claims to teach students critical thinking but instead uses pseudoscience to attack Darwin's theories." (For a preliminary assessment, see the discussion on The Panda's Thumb blog.) And she adds, "The National Center for Science Education, which tracks trends in schools, has compiled a frightening list of bills and local proposals intended to open the door for creationist teaching in science education."