A survey of 926 representative high school biology teachers found that only 28 percent of them consistently follow National Research Council guidelines that encourage them to present students with evidence of evolution.
A Neanderthal skull discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France.
A Neanderthal skull discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France. Wikimedia Commons
60 percent of teachers skirt the contentious issue by, for example, telling students that they should learn about evolution because it will be on a state test, but they don't need to "believe in it."
The study was published in the journal Science. And the findings, come despite various federal court rulings that have said that teaching creationism violates the Constitution.
One case, pointed out by the study's authors, is Kitzmiller v. Dover:
Local citizens wanted their religious values validated by the science curriculum; prominent academics testified to the scientific consensus on evolution; and creationists lost decisively. Intelligent design was not science, held the court, but rather an effort to advance a religious view via public schools, a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause.
The New York Times reports that the reaction from some in academia was a resigned sigh:
Randy Moore, a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, was unsurprised by the study's conclusions. "These kinds of data have been reported regionally, and in some cases nationally, for decades. Creationists are in the classroom, and it's not just the South," he said. "At least 25 percent of high school teachers in Minnesota explicitly teach creationism."
"Students are being cheated out of a rich science education," said Dr. [Eric] Plutzer, [one of the study's authors and] a professor of political science at Penn State University. "We think the 'cautious 60 percent' represent a group of educators who, if they were better trained in science in general and in evolution in particular, would be more confident in their ability to explain controversial topics to their students, to parents, and to school board members."