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Learning About Evolution Critical For Understanding Science

WASHINGTON -- Many public school students receive little or no exposure to the theory of evolution, the most important concept in understanding biology, says a new guidebook from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Teachers are reluctant to teach evolution because of pressures from special-interest groups to downplay or eliminate it as part of the science curriculum. Moreover, some are advocating that creationism be taught in public schools -- even though the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism is a religious idea that cannot be mandated in public education.

In an effort to move beyond the debate and focus attention on effective instruction, the Academy has issued a new guidebook, Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, to provide educators and policy-makers with tools to help integrate lessons about the scientific theory with basic biology for children in kindergarten through grade 12. The guidebook was written by a group of prominent scientists and educators who have been involved extensively in education and research on evolution.

"The widespread misunderstandings about evolution are of great concern to the scientific community and the Academy," said Bruce Alberts, NAS president and one of the book's authors. "Evolution is the central organizing principle that biologists use to understand the world. If we want our children to have a good grasp of science, we need to help teachers, parents, school administrators, and policy-makers understand both evolution and the nature of science. They also must recognize that many scientists are religious people, and that religion and science represent different approaches to understanding the human condition that are not incompatible with each other."

Teaching evolution is essential for explaining some of the most fundamental concepts of science, the guidebook says. Like all scientific theories, evolution explains natural phenomena by building
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Contact: Molly Galvin, David Schneier
news@nas.edu
202/334-2138
The National Academies
9-Apr-1998


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