Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Critical Thinking Skills Take a Back Seat in U.S. Science Education

Evolution remains largely untaught in American schools. (Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/7/2011)

Excerpt:  [Steve] Newton [director of programs and policy at the National Center for Science Education], who has been a teacher, said he understood the pressure teachers might face. When parents are offended by evolution, he said, "administrators don't back up teachers." He agreed the time to intervene is during teacher training, before the teachers have already established their lectures and course materials.

The benefits of learning evolution go beyond shaping the next generation of biologists and medical researchers, Plutzer said.

"Evolution is a window into the scientific method. . . . Darwin really had only a few tools at his disposal, but he was brilliant in understanding ecology and comparative anatomy."

For many students, biology is the only science class they take in high school or beyond, and learning about evolution could equip them with critical-thinking skills.

And that's important for good citizenship in an age when so many policies involve assessments of evidence, he said, whether it's global climate change or product safety or the claim that vaccines cause autism.

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