The United States has been a battleground this year in several states as right wing fundamentalists try to push antievolution legislation that would force children to be taught that evolution is controversial, or that creationism is scientifically equivalent to evolution. In most cases (except for Tennessee) these laws were pushed back, even in some fairly conservative states. The problem with education in the USA is that there are 50 states (plus DC) and 16000 school districts, each with full control over the science curriculum. Thus, children in northeastern and Pacific coast states have strong science educations, while other states, especially in the south and midwest, have a nascent antievolution movement. There are some minimal standards across the US for science education, but when you find school boards that think that creationism is a science, or that evolution is a scientific controversy, it’s hard to make certain that children get an well-rounded education in the biological sciences.
In the the United Kingdom, a proposed change in the national science curricula would include:
- Eight and nine year olds (3rd-4th graders in the US) will be introduced to the ideas of adaptation, inheritance, and evolution.
- Ten and eleven year olds (4th-5th graders in the US) will be taught about the fossil record as evidence for evolution.
Teaching evolution to these students will prevent a generation of scientifically ignorant students from entering college and the workforce. As evolution is the basis of all biology, and by extension all of medicine, knowledge of the field is critical to medical research. Evolution is important to understanding our planet in everything from environmental issues to farming. Agriculture, whether crops or meat, is based on an intimate knowledge of genetics and evolution.
Maybe one day the USA will create a national curriculum for modern science. But religion would be afraid of that.