The AAAS document, Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education, defines five core concepts for biological literacy. Evolution is at the top of the list, right where it belongs.
1. EVOLUTION:I would have written a different description—one that placed emphasis on Darwin's contribution but did not imply that his views represent modern evolutionary theory. I would also have mentioned genetics, especially population genetics, as the key to understanding modern evolution.
The diversity of life evolved over time by processes of mutation, selection, and genetic change. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was transformational in scientists’ understanding of the patterns, processes, and relationships that characterize the diversity of life. Because the theory is the fundamental organizing principle over the entire range of biological phenomena, it is difficult to imagine teaching biology of any kind without introducing Darwin’s profound ideas. Inheritance, change, and adaptation are recurring themes supported by evidence drawn from molecular genetics, developmental biology, biochemistry, zoology, agronomy, botany, systematics, ecology, and paleontology. A strong preparation in the theory of evolution remains essential to understanding biological systems at all levels.
Themes of adaptation and genetic variation provide rich opportunities for students to work with relevant data and practice quantitative analysis and dynamic modeling. Principles of evolution help promote an understanding of natural selection and genetic drift and their contribution to the diversity and history of life on Earth. These principles enable students to understand such processes as a microbial population’s ability to develop drug resistance and the relevance of artificial selection in generating the diversity of domesticated animals and food plants.
Nevertheless, one can't argue that evolution is the number one core concept in the biological sciences. Are we teaching it correctly in undergraduate courses. No, we are not. Are we teaching it enough in our undergraduate courses? No, again.
I think the main problem was completely ignored by the committee that drew up this document. The problem is that most professors don't understand evolution well enough to integrate this core concept into their courses. It's not enough for everyone to agree that evolution is a core concept. You also have to understand the core concept in order to teach it properly.
I see evidence in the description above suggesting that even the committee members were fuzzy on the core concept. What, for example, is "the theory of evolution"?