In Florida Evolution Debate, We See More Turning Non-Issues into Issues
Every so often there's a report about teachers who are under pressure not to teach evolution. With Darwin's day nearly upon us (have you finished all your shopping?) and the debate over how to teach evolution at a tipping point in Florida, here it comes again.
This article makes many, many assertions without ever giving any real hard data to support the claims that 1) teachers don't teach evolution, and 2) they skip it because they are afraid.
The closest they come up with are NSTA polls from 2005, which I reported about then. Then, like now, the results are cleverly communicated with misplaced emphasis to imply that teachers are under overwhelming pressure to not teach evolution. It just isn't so. Here they report that, according to the poll, 31% feel pressured to avoid teaching evolution or to include other theories. What they don't report is that the vast majority, more than 2-to-1, 69% don't feel pressured to teach other theories.
As I pointed out originally, usually, a newspaper leads with the majority numbers when a survey is reported. Most people tend to want to know what the prevailing opinion is. The news in a poll is almost always what the majority is, unless the minority view is so incredibly surprising as to warrant a headline of its own. These polls aren't that.
Regardless, in Florida there is no hard data at all, only anecdotal comments and second hand hearsay.
Once, when he and another teacher were coordinating lesson plans, they got to the part on evolution and she said, "I'm going to skip that one," Campbell said. Baylor, the teacher at Palm Harbor Middle, said she knows of two teachers who have avoided evolution because they're unsure how parents will react.The article even admits that "no one knows" how teachers are teaching evolution in Florida.
Articles like this make an issue out of a non-issue. They are distracting readers from what the real debate is about. When teachers present evolution, should they present the only the evidence that supports the theory? Or, should they present both the evidence that supports the theory and that which challenges it?
Why won't newspapers deal with that central issue?