An article in Thursday's Boston Globe tells us about hoped-for improvements in evolution education.
The author, Sally Lehrman, recognizes that the evolution unit in high schools is often sped through or put at the end of the year and then dropped because there is no time and other units must be covered. This easily leads to student misunderstanding, bad teaching, and an open door to ID critiques:
As one of their complaints, intelligent design proponents claim that schools should do a better job of explaining evolution. They may very well be right. While people who believe in the scientific method do not accept the antievolution lobby's claim of "irreducible complexity," are they prepared with a coherent response? They might say "survival of the fittest" with conviction but only have a hazy recollection of terms like "descent with modification," "natural selection," and even "mutation."
Biology teachers should have to take at least one unit/course in evolution during college. Additionally, we might want to emphasize the history of science in the high school curriculum instead of the simple wars of nations and lives of great men models that exist now. If students had a better context for the workings of science as an active part of culture, what they learn in science class would, or at least could, be integrated into a better understanding of the forces around them. Additionally, the arguments put forth by the armies of the night would lose some potency because the scientific method's power would be demonstrated both as part of science and as something to be scientifically assessed in history. And let's face it, confronting natural reality can only help.
[Note: I am thinking of doing a thesis on the teaching of the history of science in the U.S. for an M.S. in Education. I'll keep you up on that too.]