Saturday, June 09, 2007

High School AP Biology Classes Must Teach Evolution

Greg Laden has an interesting post up about Advanced Plaement Biology courses in high school. Apparently, many creationist high school teachers are under the impression that they can develop biology courses that "teach the controversy" and still give their students advanced placement credits. According to the College Board, however, that is definately not the case and those biology teachers who think they can weasel in intelligent design or skimp on teaching evolution in an advanced placement course need to be put on notice:

From a College Board memo circulated to AP teachers:

The College Board, in consultation with its Science Academic Advisory Committee, would like to address recent public concerns pertaining to the theory of evolution as it is assessed in the course audit of Advanced Placement (AP) Biology. The objective of an Advanced Placement course is to provide students with a learning experience that is equivalent to a high-quality freshman college course. In order to meet this objective, such a course must present an accurate and modern description of its academic discipline. Therefore, The College Board endorses the consensus of those professional organizations (a few examples are listed below) that delineate the discipline of modern biology. In keeping with this consensus, the College Board must specify that, in order to meet the AP Biology Audit Course Requirements, the course must treat evolution as “the foundation of modern biological models and thought.” Furthermore, a biology course which purports to be “AP” cannot endorse as a scientific alternative any treatment of the origin and development of living things which conflict with the modern concepts of evolution as described by the aforementioned organizations. The College Board understands the deep and profound regard some students, teachers, and schools may have for such alternative explanations, and respects the right of private and religious schools to develop their own curricula. However, in allowing the designation of “AP,” The College Board is compelled to uphold the standards of the consensus of the community of professional biologists. [emphasis mine].

Greg considered this good news, as do I, but he had a couple of additional suggestions to strengthen the wording and prevent the intelligent design activists from cherry picking words to develop a Frankensteinian version that actually endorses teaching "the controversy" in AP classes. Regardless, I think the message is quite clear: if high school biology teachers are going to develop AP classes for their students, not only must they not include the non-scientific "alternatives" but the central theme of the class must be evolutionary theory.

18 comments:

afarensis said...

That is good news! Yeah AP! Changing the subject for a minute, have you seen this about the Hadza?

Anonymous said...

Why is this good news? IF the theory of evolution is true, wouldn't it hold up against "the controversy?" Don't we want to teach our children to think critically and chose for themselves?

Christopher O'Brien said...

Anonymous, there are lots of alternatives to other issues out there...would you favor teaching astrology alongside astronomy under the assumption that astronomy would "hold up" against astrology? ID has nothing to do with critical thinking - it is nothing more than a publicity campaign. But in answer to your question, I do teach "the controversy" in my anthropology class - it takes about 10 minutes to point out that ID has nothing to offer but supposed "criticisms" of evolution, and those are based only on cherry picked data and out of context quotes.

Mike said...

The AP Biology audit has indeed approved AP Bio courses that include ID/creation science. See: http://www.soulcare.org/Creation/creationapbiology_07_08.htm
Its been up for several weeks now, and been confirmed. The approved syllabus download produces a popup username and password box, but cancelling it still permits the download. Note that there is a huge difference between the deceptive wording in the syllabus and what is on the web site, but a careful reading of the approved syllabus should have been enough to let a knowledgable reader know that they were dealing with creationism. Official word from The College Board has been "we're looking into it", but no news for several weeks. Galloway is unique in that he wants to publicize what he's doing. Posts on the AP Bio teachers list indicate that other ID teachers intend to keep the ID teaching secret, and out of the approval process. A little googling produces other AP Bio web sites with creationist references. Other posts aggressively defend including ID/creation science in an "inquiry-based" teaching process, naively insisting that ID/creation science is an honest alternative. Other teachers, obviously sympathetic to "teach the controversy", had briefly pressured the list moderator to ban all posts on creationism in AP. The College Board staff intervened, but the pressure to maintain the status quo by stifling news and information continues.

This was my first year teaching AP Bio, and monitoring the AP Bio teachers list. The College Board biology advisory committee clearly understands the general problem ID/creation science presents to acceptable biology instruction, but they have not yet demonstrated that they understand the extent of the problem they have with teachers who are naively sympathetic towards ID/creation science, or that they have any plan for dealing with it. The audit and their statement (not yet posted on the AP Bio web site BTW) are clear statements of intent, but a large fraction of AP Bio teachers have not read the statement, and others are falsifying they're audit submissions. This problem is clearly going to require more effort from The College Board, but they've given no sign that they intend to do anything more. My thought is that they require the teachers to participate in workshops focused on why ID/creation science is a problem, and why it can't be tolerated in AP Biology. Another thing missing is any guidance for religious schools. AP Bio is unique in that private schools, some with a clear and legitimate religious mission, also teach it. Posts on the list clearly show confusion among teachers who believe that religious belief is synonymous with ID/creation science, and evolution is synonymous with atheism.

Anonymous said...

Is it right under school codes to teach the "theory of evolution" as a scientific law just as the law of gravity or other scientific laws? I am a parent who just found out that my daughters A.P. Biology teacher had all of the religious children in the class raise their hands during class and then adressed them with this "New Scientific Law". I feel that this needs to be verified by a higher authority rather than just him. Not to mention the fact that I feel that he was singling them out and then using his own personal religious experiences to make their faith seem silly. All personal assumptions aside, What are the codes on this "Theory versus Law" topic?

Wayne R Altman said...

No matter what your view is on Evolution is it is unproven theory, and should not be presented as anything but.
Creation is an opposing theory, and should also be presented if Evolution is.
Make no mistake Evolution is just as much a religion as any other, and should be treated as such in my opinion.

Christopher O'Brien said...

Sorry, Wayne - the fact that you have no concept of what a "theory" is indicates you know nothing about science, or evolution. Your mind can't comprehend the concept, so you denigrate it by offering vacuous "arguments" - typical creationist: argues against science and evolution but can't state an actual fact about either. Fortunately I teach classes and have the ability to correct the misrepresentations of science handed down by their priests, pastors and the usual collection of christian idiots who control school boards.

Wayne said...

Theory-a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact. What part of THAT do you not understand Professor?

Wayne said...

By the way Mr. Obrien, You can bet you will never get your hands on my kids that is for certain...

All one has to do is wait for the next fairy tale from researchers like yourself. Your problem is you cannot admit that for all of your "education" you actually know less than someone who studies the bible. This is also the cause for the hostility toward those who disagree with you. Good luck with that sir..

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