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Home > Catalog > Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms
Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms


  • 7 b/w illus. 2 maps 54 tables
  • Page extent: 304 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.42 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521148863)

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$32.99 (P)

Who should decide what children are taught in school? This question lies at the heart of the evolution-creation wars that have become a regular feature of the U.S. political landscape. Ever since the 1925 Scopes “monkey trial” many have argued that the people should decide by majority rule and through political institutions; others variously point to the federal courts, educational experts, or scientists as the ideal arbiter. Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer illuminate who really controls the nation’s classrooms. Based on their innovative survey of 926 high school biology teachers they show that the real power lies with individual educators who make critical decisions in their own classrooms. Broad teacher discretion sometimes leads to excellent instruction in evolution. But the authors also find evidence of strong creationist tendencies in America’s public high schools. More generally, they find evidence of a systematic undermining of science and the scientific method in many classrooms.


Introduction; 1. Who should decide what children are taught?; 2. The public speaks: 'teach both'; 3. A nation divided by religion, education, and place; 4. Is evolution fit for polite company?: science standards in the American states; 5. Teachers and what they teach; 6. State standards meet street level bureaucracy; 7. When the personal becomes pedagogical; 8. Teachers in their schools and communities; 9. The battle for America's classrooms.

Prize Winner

Winner, 2012 Don K. Price Award, Science, Technology, and Environmental Politics Section, APSA


“Who should determine whether evolution is taught in the schools and how it is taught? Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms is a thorough investigation of the relative roles played by school boards and the political process, by scientists, and by school teachers. You may be surprised by the answers.”
Francisco J. Ayala, University of California, Irvine

“Do not be fooled into thinking that this is ‘merely’ the single best book of social science on the controversy over evolution. It is, but it is more than that. This book is also a masterful treatment of big questions about the nature of public education and democratic governance.”
David E. Campbell, University of Notre Dame

“A tour de force. Berkman and Plutzer’s analysis of who really decides what is taught about evolution in America’s public schools is incisive and insightful, thorough and thoughtful. Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the evolution wars.”
Glenn Branch, National Center for Science Education

“This important book, incorporating much new and pertinent empirical information about the actual teaching about origins in the classrooms of the USA, must be read by all interested in the ongoing debate about evolution and Creationism.”
Michael Ruse, Florida State University

“Berkman and Plutzer’s insightful presentation of their research will come as a shock to many who do not realize the seriousness of the problem of antievolutionism in our schools. The authors have done a great service to the public in illuminating the many sources of this problem. It should be required reading especially for school board members, administrators, and principals.”
Eugenie Scott, National Center for Science Education

"Berkman and Plutzer strike exactly the right balance between, on the one hand, revealing their thought processes, describing the operationalization of their variable, explaining their regression models, and the like, and, on the other hand, sustaining a lively, engaging narrative discussion that keeps the reader engaged and thinking and learning along with them. I would think that anyone teaching a methods course, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, would want to take a close look at this book to consider it for course adoptions. … Anyone concerned about state education standards, curriculum, and teaching practices is likely to find a plethora of substantive and methodological ideas and insights here."
Michal Paris, Law and Politics Book Review

"The enduring conflict over teaching evolution in America’s public schools features national voices and policy makers, but this investigation of high school biology teachers provides a unique and vital perspective. Those who work at every level of the K-12 enterprise will find this book both useful and surprising."
Gary Sehorn, Journal of Education and Christian Belief

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