Quantcast

«

»

Apr 15 2014

Far Too Many Science Teachers Don’t Understand Evolution

A new survey of science teachers in Oklahoma confirms what we have long known from many other such surveys, which is that far too many science teachers in our public schools don’t understand the concepts they’re teaching, especially the theory of evolution.

Among the specific findings:

  • 25 percent strongly or somewhat agree with the statement, “Scientific evidence indicates that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time in the past.”
  • 36.8 percent strongly or somewhat disagree with the statement, “Complex structures such as the eye could have been formed by evolution.”
  • 40.8 percent strongly or somewhat agree with the statement, “‘Survival of the fittest’ means basically that ‘only the strong survive’.”
  • 17.1 percent strongly or somewhat disagree with the statement, “The earth is old enough for evolution to have occurred.” (And, 3.9 percent were “undecided.”)
  • 32.9 percent strongly or somewhat agree with the statement, “Evolution is a total random process.”

A 2001 study of science teachers nationwide found that a whopping 30% of them rejected evolution, so this is hardly a surprise. It’s still depressing. You can read the full study here.

17 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Sastra

    32.9 percent strongly or somewhat agree with the statement, “Evolution is a total random process.”

    I think this one is confusing. Evolution isn’t ‘totally random’ in that the selective process provides a direction. But is the alternative “guided by God” or some other teleological force? I have a problem interpreting the results on this because I’m not sure how I’d answer.

  2. 2
    Kevin Kehres

    Do teachers of science classes have to actually study science in college? Or can they just do the education curriculum? If the latter, these results are unsurprising, if a bit annoying.

    It’s OK. 400 million Chinese students are studying science right now. I’m sure they’ll be happy to take the lead from the US once the Tea Party drives the US educational system into the ground.

  3. 3
    John Pieret

    Perhaps even worse, the majority of biology teachers avoid parental controversy by not teaching evolution fully.

    http://www.biosciencetechnology.com/News/Feeds/2011/01/products-molecular-biology-high-school-biology-teachers-reluctant-to-endorse-/

  4. 4
    John Pieret

    Kevin Kehres:

    It’s OK. 400 million Chinese students are studying science right now.

    Heh! At the time the survey came out that I linked to above, my reaction was “The only question is whether we should start studying Mandarin or Cantonese.”

  5. 5
    Menyambal

    Evolution is random the same way http://gabrielecirulli.github.io/2048/ is random, or poker is random. You get a random variation on something that worked before, and you do your best with it, trying to win.

    Poker may give everybody random cards, but the guy named “Doc” is going to win the night.

  6. 6
    Synfandel

    The most important thing a teacher should know is more than his students.

  7. 7
    Pierce R. Butler

    32.9 percent strongly or somewhat agree with the statement, “Evolution is a total random process.”

    How many marked the question down for such grammar?

  8. 8
    Synfandel

    How many marked the question down for such grammar?

    Let’s correct the grammar.
    “Evolution is, like, a total random process, dude.”

  9. 9
    M can help you with that.

    25 percent strongly or somewhat agree with the statement, “Scientific evidence indicates that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time in the past.”

    Hey, there are dinosaurs outside my window right now. They’re mostly eating seeds and pecking at the plastic of the dinosaur-feeder I have hanging up.

  10. 10
    iknklast

    Kevin – I don’t know about some states, but Oklahoma is where I did my master’s degree, so I can answer. To teach science in the high school, you need only two upper level science courses, and neither of them has to be evolution. Where I went to school, many of the education majors were people who were unable to get into the master’s program in science because their GPA and GRE scores were both too low, and they couldn’t find a professor who was willing to go to bat for them. So they went into science education instead. Scary.

    As far as the high school teachers knowing evolution, when I went to school in Oklahoma, they didn’t teach it. When it came time for evolution in Biology class, they taught us to fly kites (yes, physics, but does it really matter? At least we weren’t learning evolution!) Then, when it was time for human reproduction, we flew kites again. I doubt much has changed, except now they probably don’t bother with the kites. They just skip evolution gleefully and move on (and probably human reproduction, too, which is why when I was a teaching assistant in Biology I discovered to my horror that students were coming into college not knowing which sex had the uterus).

    Sorry for the long rant. It’s because Oklahoma has done something to my brain so that whenever I hear stupid news out of Oklahoma, I have to rant or I’ll explode.

  11. 11
    Kimpatsu

    It’s OK. 400 million Chinese students are studying science right now.
    China is also investing billions in cutting-edge biomedical research (stem cells, etc.) How will the Religious Right feel a generation from now, when the USA has to buy its healthcare solutions from godless China?

  12. 12
    eava

    I really don’t get it. Evolution is evil and immoral because of the concept of survival of the fittest, but then the social policies supported by those opposed to evolution pretty much say if you’re poor, old or disabled society shouldn’t do a damn thing to help you and you should basically drop dead. The cognitive dissonance hurts.

  13. 13
    Childermass

    Not so fun fact: Sally Kern used to be a school teacher.

  14. 14
    lynnwilhelm

    Re: the content knowledge teachers should have seems to be up for debate in some circles.
    I’m a new high school science teacher (in the US) having a really tough time this year. I started teaching biology last semester but this semester was told to teach physical science (elementary chem and physics) instead. My background is in the life sciences and I’m having to relearn the physics and some of the chemistry to teach this class.*

    While discussing this difficulty with an administrator I was told that I should try learning the material along with my students. I found this statement absolutely ridiculous. But I’m afraid that many in education think that it is OK to not know more than your students. This attitude may be changing in some places and situations, but more often than not, teachers sometimes end up being just a warm body in the room.

    *I am definitely not afraid to tell students when I don’t know something, but I do think I should understand Newton’s Laws of motion before I teach my students about them.

  15. 15
    freehand

    eava: I really don’t get it. Evolution is evil and immoral because of the concept of survival of the fittest, but then the social policies supported by those opposed to evolution pretty much say if you’re poor, old or disabled society shouldn’t do a damn thing to help you and you should basically drop dead. The cognitive dissonance hurts.
    .
    Not quite. Evolutionary science is evil because it says that God didn’t make us special snowflakes on purpose, with magic. The Southern Baptist side of my family is perfectly OK with being mean to the downtrodden, even though they’re in that group. No, the problem is: if we’re descended from animals, then why shouldn’t we behave like animals? By which the southern Baptists mean, I can imagine behavior that would make a bonobo blush and a vulture sick to its stomach.
    .
    Also, scientists not only hate Jesus (the strong, manly Jesus of the Baptists, not the wimpy baby Jesus of the Papists), but they also hate big pick-up trucks and gas generators and other big manly industrial machines. (Global warming? Get real!)

  16. 16
    colnago80

    Re Kevin Kehras @ #2

    It is my information that, in some states, in order to teach science courses in, say physics, one must have majored in that subject. Similarly for chemistry or biology. In these states, a degree majoring in education is not sufficient.

  17. 17
    thebookofdave

    @ 37 Pierce R. Butler

    32.9 percent strongly or somewhat agree with the statement, “Evolution is a total random process.”

    How many marked the question down for such grammar?

    Forget grammar, how about misspelling evilution?

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site