Pussyfooting around evolution


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I have been lucky to work with some excellent science teachers here in Montana. The state’s science education in general, though, could be better. In 2012, the Thomas Fordham Institute released its report The State of State Science Standards, and Montana didn’t fare so well. With an overall rating of ‘F’, Montana’s science standards were described as

…a thin amalgam of wooly commands and vague expectations…permeated with vague if high-sounding generalities that are of little or no use in setting up a course of study.

Harsh! In the section on life sciences, the report complains that “…the word ‘evolution’ and its variants appear only in four places,” with a definition “…far too sketchy to be of any pedagogical use.”

To make matters worse, we see hints of creationism in the use of the term “scientific theory,” which appears only in the context of such subjects as cosmology and the fossil record…Pussyfooting around evolution is not the only weakness in the life science standards.

In terms of clarity and specificity, Montana’s standards

…are as poorly written as they are ambiguous…The Montana standards are among the poorest we have evaluated.

Montana is among the ‘lead state partners’ involved in developing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), but has not yet adopted them. The Office of Public Instruction website says that adoption of the NGSS will be considered “during our next standards revision,” but doesn’t say when that will be.

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