High school teachers appear to be a little averse to teaching evolutionary theory in their classrooms. A representative research survey conducted by Penn State professors Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer recently found that only 28 percent of teachers "craft lesson plans with evolution as a unifying theme linking disparate topics in biology." What serves as a substitute for evolution? It could be creationism, intelligent design, "teach the controversy" or no theme at all. This is a particularly worrisome development for the researchers, who noted that there's a "cautious 60 percent" of teachers who "are neither strong advocates for evolutionary biology nor explicit endorsers of nonscientific alternatives" and just want to avoid controversy. (13 percent of teachers "explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least one hour of class time presenting it in a positive light.")
Berkman and Plutzer, authors of the book the Battle to Control America's Classrooms, prescribe more rigorous training for prospective biology teachers so they will be better able to impart the nuances of evolutionary theory to students. At LiveScience, Jennifer Welsh explains their suggestion: "States should require all education majors to take a stand-alone evolution course at the university level before they can become science teachers, while school systems should offer follow-up refresher courses for those already teaching."