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Evolution vs Creationism in the Classroom: The Lasting Effects of Science Education

In recent years, anti-scientific attitudes have had harmful consequences for public health, the environment, and the economy. In a new working paper from the Annenberg Institute, Benjamin W. Arold of ETH Zurich asks if schools can mitigate the spread of these attitudes.

To answer this question, Arold explores variation in U.S. State Science Education Standards to examine the immediate and long-term effects of evolution instruction on students’ knowledge, beliefs, and career choices. Using data from 2000 to 2009, Arold finds that expanded teaching of evolution increased students’ knowledge of evolution, belief in evolution in adulthood, and
probability of working in the life sciences.

This study’s findings contribute to the political debate on education standards, indicating that such standards can have lasting effects on students, including their scientific attitudes and career choices.

-Nathalie Kirsch