Evolution in schools -- what was your experience?

As one who was homeschooled K through 12, I’m fairly ignorant about how evolution is typically approached in public education, and I’m sure it varies depending on generation, region, curriculum, etc.

So I’m curious what typical experiences have been in learning about evolution, such as: What grade was it first taught? Was it generally taught in science class or history class (or both)? What kinds of things were you expected to know about evolution and/or deep time – things like the names of time periods, fossils, human evolution, etc.?
Thanks! :slight_smile:

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As an old fossil (65) my response is probably more historical in nature, but I grew up in a small town in west Texas, and most of my school years were in the 1960’s.
I recall absolutely no classes that spoke to time periods, fossils, or evolution. I did all the science classes, with my science teacher being a Christian in the Nazarene congregation, but we never went beyond the basics in class, focused on structures and physiology but never touched on evolution. Of course, that was in an era when Henry Morris was just beginning his stuff and it was really not an issue.
I am interested in how you guys approach this today, as it seems education has been molded somewhat by the controversy, probably to the detriment of all. I was reading an article somewhere the last few days about how we tend to integrate information that supports our position, but how we should try to be more objective. Perhaps that is where we should focus more, on the thought process and critical thinking skills, rather than the ultimate conclusions.

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That’s a good point – I often assume that my science education is deficient since it was from a YEC perspective, but that all depends on how much evolution education is actually typical. I guess there’s a chance that those with a YEC upbringing might actually know more about certain aspects of evolution (but probably a very unbalanced view), having been primed to “defend” against it

I was homeschooled with YEC books, though we went to Field Museum a lot and looked at the fossils and stuffed animal collections. I think I just learned to tune out references to evolution or millions of years.

I don’t remember it coming up at all in junior high. We studied body systems and classification and dissected a lot of things.

At my public high school, my teacher was a Christian who basically told us that we need to know that Darwin wrote Origin of the Species, the theory of evolution was based on natural selection, and that was about it. Most of biology was the differences between the kingdoms, life cycles, and cellular processes. I didn’t take anatomy or AP biology, maybe it would have come up more there. Ironically, I learned more about evolutionary theory studying an earth science textbook independently in preparation for Science Olympiad competitions. (Because of the relation between rocks and fossils and tectonic plate movement)

It wasn’t until I took Biology 101 at Wheaton that I ever was expected to learn evolution as an underlying explanatory framework.


Let´s bring the perspective from Germany, where evolution was never an issue. Sadly of course, as I stated in the past, the Bultmann school dominated the theology and theroefor treatment of biblical history here for most part of the 20th century and has therefor still influence until today (which led to the churches becoming ghost towns).
So I went to a evangelic primary school, daily prayer and singing included (again next to none treatment of the bible, other than if it was the task in one of the songs, like the fight over Jericho). Normally we don´t have any YEC crowd here, but there was one teacher who I´m not sure about that until today, but that´s not important. I don´t remember a real mentioning of this task in school, but since it was only a primary school, it´s understandable, what can people at an age with one digit really make of deeper biology about cells or stuff like that?
In my opinion, especially with looking at the secondary school and going forward, noone, including the christian teachers, which I believe were the majority, ever had any problem regarding evolution or other science. Church, society (schools) and science aren´t really opposing/fighting at all, but the first one completely fails to make the others hear their arguments, not because they´re nonexistent, but rather because the influence of Bultmann restricted the area on how to apply your arguments (historical arguments are probably completely unknown to the common people, especially since, regarding the magazines or tv channels from the church, they´re practically not treated at all), there is pretty much a lack of try.

Conclusion: The problem with evolution is in my opinion restricted to certain part of the USA and only a small, if at all, existing problem in Europe. The advantage was, that no such dichotomy was ever really built up here.


Biology in high school. Its not like I hadn’t heard the ideas – after all I was raised by extreme liberals. But it is only the science that really signifies as far as I am concerned. The rest is hot air. I took to the logic of the theory right away and was already leaping to the logical conclusion that most evolution would occur in small populations on the brink of extinction where you will find the fewest fossils.


As an MK, my homeschooling was either from Calvert (a Catholic homeschool organization), Abeka book (Pensacola Christian Correspondence, a very narrow evangelical group), or the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Abeka taught that the only source of absolute knowledge was the Bible, and was thus, I guess, presuppositional. They also presumed that only one interpretation (from a Western, fairly TULIP point of view) was correct. Thus, when I started UN-L, which was entirely secular but respectful of faith, I considered the evolution discussion to be a challenge. I read up on “Scientific Creation” and a book on the Ark, and wrote notes in the test margins challenging and questioning each “presumption” I could think of. I received a note from the teacher who shocked me by pointing out that I was being cynical and not willing to read. She told me she, too, was a Christian, and invited me to listen to the text with a more open mind. When I realized I was not being entirely charitable, it really opened my mind to the idea that one could come at a point of view from an entirely different mindset and still have good conscience. It was the first crack in my armor.

I also asked a lot of questions in my community college geology class. I think I was a bit of an annoyance to the teacher, who was kind of shy. Some students cheered me on, but others appeared frustrated at my hindering the progress. However, the professor, like my high school teacher, really reached me best by being kind. When I stopped questioning and started learning, I found it pretty interesting. I think I kind of frightened off the teacher, though, and always regretted afterwards breaking our relationship (he sort of avoided me after the first few weeks) by challenging too much. I think I had the impression that I should aggressively push for my views, without realizing that others have very good reasons for theirs, along with their own insecurities, too (guess I hadn’t learned enough from my HS teacher yet). However, by the time cell and molecular biology (with mitochondrial nucleic acids similar to prokaryotes) and my capstone biology course came around, I was much quieter. I learned more and hopefully was a help rather than a hindrance in class.

Hopefully, these experiences will teach me to instill respect in my children for another person’s point of view, whether they choose YEC or EC, or none of the above.


I can identify a lot with this. I also went into college with a lot of defenses up, and I was (probably fortunately) too shy to do a lot of outright challenging, but it’s odd to realize now that part of the mindset was that there was some kind of duty in letting others know that I believed they were wrong, which is pretty much the opposite of learning. Not that there aren’t many philosophies out there that need challenging, but it’s almost like my attitude was “I don’t need to learn.”

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Yes, but I think for me it was an evangelical mindset that was meant to set the stage for evangelism and their salvation. I don’t think I was unkind in the way I talked, but it was definitely a pain for them and probably slowed things down. I had an interesting discussion with a Methodist professor who recognized me as a Christian (wasn’t my prof) and discussed how it was hard for him when a fundamentalist continually challenged his teaching evolution in another class in the same college (I am not sure how we got to talking about that!) It also helped me see the other side of the coin. He, too, was nice about it, but I think I understood it better after talking with him.

Not that challenging is a bad thing. Greg Boyd wrote in “Benefit of the Doubt,” one of my favorite books, that the thing that convinced him of evolution was that he challenged his own prof repeatedly about it, and the prof very patiently answered every question he had, even quashing the other students’ groans. He emphasized that the place of science and questioning was exactly there–in college–and it was important to clearly answer every honest question. And that’s true–university should be where we are free to question and learn. Come to think of that, Biologos is intended to be like that.


I had a similar experience from the opposite direction. Instead of skepticism confronting evolution it was my skepticism and challenges confronting a theistic worldview. I left them with a feeling that I was a hopeless case, but that wasn’t my experience at all. I left with a feeling that there was something to this stuff after all.

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