November 27, 2006

Introducing Evolution at an Elementary Level II: Some Survey Results

Last week I blogged about a feasibility report I'm conducting for a tech writing class, about introducing evolution to students at the elementary level.

One of my criterion for the report (arguably the most important) is public acceptance of evolution. I surveyed a small number of elementary ed majors on campus regarding the issue, and thought I'd share some of the essay responses (you can download the survey here, if interested).

Do you think evolution can be taught to elementary children? Why or why not?

The consensus was "yes" on this one, with most, even the detractors, pointing out that anything can be taught if the methods are appropriate:

Children are capable of learning anything as long as its on their level (sophomore, early childhood ed).
Anything can be taught to anyone, we just need to simplify it (junior, elem ed).

Here's where the answers sharply split:

Do you think evolution should be taught to elementary children? Why or why not?

Even in this small sample, there was a marked division, almost cleanly in half. I'll let the answers speak for themselves.

Those who answered yes:

It tells us where we came from and how humans/plants exist (sophomore, elem ed).

You should be able to teach elementary children evolution because the survival of the fittest is the main reason we are here today (junior, elem ed w/social studies conc).

It's something that took place in history and if we as teachers teach everything in history, then we should teach evolution. It's a major part of history (junior, elem ed).

It is an actual scientific theory, even if you don't believe it (sophomore, ed).

On the fence (some might argue that these fit neatly in the "no" category):

I think that we should teach the children that they have the right to choose what they believe but we should give them the tools to make an accurate decision (junior, elem ed).

Yes, but only as a belief (sophomore, elem ed).

Depends on how conservative parents are; may burn too many bridges (junior, history).

Emphatically no:

Young kids trust anything that teachers say and it's only a theory so they'll take it as fact (sophomore, early childhood/elem ed).

It should be taught when they are old enough to decide if they believe in it or not (junior, early childhood ed).

It is not right (junior, exercise science).

I believe it is unscientific and that Creation makes more sence [sic] (freshman, elem ed).

It should be noted that only about one-third of those surveyed felt confident enough to teach evolution. About one-fifth of those who answered "no" on the "should question" felt confident enough to teach evolution.

Again, the sample size of this survey is far too small to draw any concrete, scientific conclusions about the issue at this point. My report is due next Monday, and finals are coming up, so I won't be working on this too much in the next couple of weeks, though I do plan on pursuing the issue further after the semester is finished. I want elementary teachers to weigh in on the issue, as well as more education students at both FSU and ACM.

I will say this about the responses: They reflect the terrible condition our country is in regarding science education. Though most of these students felt that evolution should be taught, they give it the democratic treatment made famous by creationism and Intelligent Design. Give students a choice, let them decide what to believe. After all, it's just a theory, like any other.

Biology and its bedrock, Darwinian evolution, are not about belief, they are based on thick stacks of evidence, like any science, and yet receive the same treatment as an invading faith.

I mentioned the post-modernism (pro-delusion) of our school systems nowadays. Every worldview is valid, every perspective should be respected and no one's toes should be stepped on while teaching kids about the world around them.

The system fears the implications of evolution. They don't want to disrupt the religious indoctrination of kids at home.

I say tough noogies. Science is science. We teach it in full, or we don't teach it at all.

I'll have more on this as it develops.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:17 AM

    I taught elementary school science for 25 years, and high school Chemistry and Physics for another 4. I always taught evolution to my 4th and 5th graders, but I made the distinction between those aspects of science that were called Laws, such as the Law of Gravity, and those parts of science that were still at the level of theory, such as the Theory of Evolution. I acknowledged that not everyone believed in evolution, and left it to their parents to deal with Creationism. I never had any problems with parents on this subject.