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Overcoming Controversy to Increase Science Literacy

Kentucky Country Day
Pew Research Center data shows that the public and scientists see U.S. scientific achievements in a positive light, but they are critical of K-12 STEM education.

A national survey from 2011 shows that 60 percent of teachers avoid the topic of evolution in their classrooms.

“Roughly 20 percent do spend time teaching about evolution, and about 20 percent openly teach creationism or other intelligent design type variants," says Emily Schoerning, who works with the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a non-profit that defends the teaching of evolution and climate science in the public schools. She is focused on finding ways to reach the 60 percent of teachers who don’t teach evolution for a variety of reasons.

"The most common response that we get from teachers is that they don’t feel supported by communities and they don’t want to cause any problems for themselves. Even more so than actually having had objections, [it's] the fear of having objections, and the amount of time and emotional energy that that will consume when they’re already such a stressed profession."

Emily Schoerning, Charity Nebbe, and Dawn Posekany in Iowa Public Radio's Iowa City studio. (left to right)

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a discussion on science education, science literacy, and the language we use talk about topics like evolution, climate change, and the geologic time scale. Along with Emily Schoerning, Solon High School science teacher Dawn Posekany shares her experiences in the classroom, and anthropologists Briana Pobiner and Tim Weaver discuss what we can learn by studying evolution, and the importance of continuing evolutionary research in the years to come. 

About "Darwin Day"

February 12 is the 207th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution. Over the last couple decades, there’s been a movement to establish an international Darwin Day to be celebrated over the world. One of the groups celebrating this year is in Iowa City, where Darwin Day will be recognized February 18-20 with a series of conversations about topics in science and evolution.

More information can be found at this link. 

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa