Science ideals and science careers in a university biology department

in Learning and Teaching
Author: David E. Long
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In an ethnographic study set within a biology department of a public university in the United States, incongruity between the ideals and practice of science education are investigated. Against the background of religious conservative students' complaints about evolution in the curriculum, biology faculty describe their political intents for fostering science literacy. This article examines differences that emerge between the department's rhetorical commitment to improve science understanding amongst their students and the realities of course staffing and anxieties about promotion and tenure. Because tenure-track faculty are motivated to focus their careers on research productivity and teaching biology majors, other biology courses are staffed with adjunct instructors who are less equipped to negotiate complex pedagogies of science and religion. In practice, faculty avoid risky conversations about evolution versus creationism with religiously conservative students. I argue that such faculty are complicit, through their silence, in failing to equip their students with the science literacy which their own profession avows is crucial for a well-informed citizenry in a democracy.