Last month the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a $1,990,459 grant to a team led by Paul Horwitz to teach evolution to fourth graders [Students Explore Evolution Through Evolution Readiness Project]. Here's the opening paragraph of that announcement from NSF, posted on their website.
Understanding EvolutionIf the National Science Foundation doesn't even know the difference between "evolution" and "natural selection" then how can we ever hope to educate the general public?
One hundred fifty-one years after Charles Darwin introduced his theory of evolution, the "E word" remains controversial in science education circles, sparking debate over how to teach it, at what age, and even, in extreme cases, whether it should be taught at all. Yet, essentially there is agreement among scientists that evolution by natural selection is the fundamental model that explains the extraordinary complexity and interdependence of the living world. Moreover, evolution by natural selection is a quintessential scientific theory, explaining an extraordinary collection of data, including much that Darwin himself was unaware of, with a small collection of powerful ideas.
Can such an all-encompassing theory be taught successfully in elementary school?
In a project called Evolution Readiness, funded by the National Science Foundation, principal investigator Paul Horwitz and a team of researchers from the Concord Consortium and Boston College, are trying to find out. They are introducing the basic concepts of evolution to fourth graders.
"Our goal is to teach young children how Darwin's model of natural selection explains the observation that organisms are adapted to their environment," said Horwitz. The project is also breaking new ground in science teaching. "Science is rarely described as an attempt to explain observations in terms of models," Horwitz said.
I don't mind if Horwitz et al. want to concentrate on just teaching natural selection to fourth graders but I do mind that the people at NSF don't seem to understand that this is just one of the mechanisms of evolution. Natural selection alone does NOT explain the diversity and complexity we see around us.
[Hat Tip: Intelligent Design Creationists]