Evolution in Education

Teaching Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is not about changing beliefs. In the same way teaching students of all religions about the history of Christianity or Judaism, for example, does not inherently include preaching that religion’s beliefs, the theory of evolution can be taught without being sermonized.

Evolution is the change in organisms over generations. The theory of evolution is the idea that all organisms evolved from one original, single-celled organism nearly 4 billion years ago. Other ideas for the origin of life stem from religion, in which one or more god(s) created life. Though the theory of evolution contradicts the ideas of the origin of life in many religions, it should still be taught in science classes.

Evolution is a theory that is supported by an overwhelming amount of evidence. It is backed up by real-life examples, artifacts (fossils), research and observations. Not only do the facts offer beneficial information to students, but science teachers can use this example of research in explanations of the scientific method and how to conduct one’s own research.

Educators are responsible not only for teaching students, but teaching them how to learn as well. After being in school for over 14 years, I have done quite a bit of learning how to be a learner. This includes applying material I learned in school to real life, especially in science courses. I would have been very confused in Advanced Placement biology if all of the evolution talk was cut from the curriculum, because I would have had no background information behind concepts such as why genetics are important or why humans are so similar to primates.

There are so many questions that come about in life that cannot scientifically nor factually be explained without the theory of evolution. The theory is not used to change people’s beliefs, but to explain biological and ecological processes. Physical, tangible evidence, such as fossils or a bacteria’s antibiotic resistance, makes it hard to deny that evolution plays a role in real life.

For example, antibiotic resistance is an issue that scientists are facing that affects everyone whether you believe in evolution or not. These “super bugs,” or antibiotic-resistant bacteria, are harder to treat because they have evolved to survive the drugs and treatment we have used in the past. The only scientific explanation for this change in strength is evolution, and rejecting that idea is ignorant and potentially harmful.

Adults who reject even being open to this theory are unable to truly understand or accept the facts of life today. Our youth should not grow up without this understanding of the world that is backed up by facts and evidence, especially at a time of climate crisis and other real-world problems that can be understood through evolution.

So many students are interested in STEM and going into a scientific field in the future. It is unfair to put any of these students behind others in this field due to a lack of coverage on one of the most fundamental aspects of life. By not teaching evolution in schools, future scientists are deprived of necessary knowledge and understanding of real scientific processes.

Students should be respected as learners and as free-thinking beings, and therefore should not be treated as if they cannot handle the idea of evolution or make their own educated decisions. Parents and educators alike should trust students to learn and apply the material to their lives however they choose.

Young people should not be taught to have a closed mind by omitting certain material from the curriculum solely because it does not align with personal beliefs. Instead, we should have faith that these students will use the information they gain in school to make informed decisions about the world.

If someone learns about the theory of evolution and still chooses to believe in their religion, which happens most of the time, then that is their choice as much as it is if they choose to change their beliefs. That is the beauty of living in a country where you have freedom of religion — there is a separation of church and state.

The main reason people might oppose teaching evolution in schools is for religious reasons. In the United States, there is a separation of church and state — therefore, by law, public schools cannot preach religion to students. Teaching the theory of evolution has nothing to do with preaching to students, it is simply stating facts about research and evidence that support a scientific theory.

From here, many will argue that if evolution is taught in schools, religion should be as well. Personally, I think that’s a great idea. The history of various religions would not only expose students to different cultures and points of view, but help with ideas of acceptance in diversity.

Though the theory of evolution and ideas in religion may contradict each other, they are not totally exclusive to one another. Teaching evolution in schools should not even be a question.