I heard last night from Jason Wiles, an Arkansas native and scientist now on the faculty of Syracuse University. He wrote a cover story for the Arkansas Times in 2006 on the failure of Arkansas schools to teach evolution, despite its supposed place in the required science curriculum.
Wiles has continued to study the teaching of evolution and its acceptance by students. Does rampant rejection of evolution in the public constitute a failure of science education, he wonders?
Wiles’ quest has produced a scholarly article in which he studied how gifted students react to teaching on the subject. It’s based on his discussions with students at Arkansas Governor’s School, the summer session for talented students at Hendrix College. He thought people, particularly teachers, might be interested in what he found.
It appears that students who accept evolution appeal more strongly to evidence than those who are unsure about or reject evolution; that students often appeal to their religion as a factor influencing their level of acceptance of evolution whether they accept evolution, reject evolution, or are in transition; and that students may have difficulty with the evolution of human beings even if they accept all other aspects of evolution. Other trends suggest that students who become more accepting of evolution may go through “stages” of changed acceptance involving acceptance of increasingly ancient ages for Earth and universe and expanding limits within which they accept that evolution can occur.