Not Teaching Evolution Would Handicap Many Pupils for Life

Article excerpt

Evolution is not to be taught to Grade 7s because it is "cognitively too demanding" for teachers and students (Cape Times, November 11). This is like saying that road safety should not be taught to juniors because they cannot be expected to understand Isaac Newton's three laws of motion.

Evolution is fundamental to understanding why we are what we are, why the Earth is what it is.

Road safety preserves life and limb. A grasp of evolution and other basic concepts of science preserve sanity and enable sane decisions to be taken on anything from boiling a kettle, baking a cake, preserving our planet, putting a screw into a piece of wood, or looking after our health.

With South Africa's appalling drop-out rates in basic education, hundreds of thousands of children are being denied an essential skill. Social Surveys SA recently polled 4 400 households and found nearly 12 percent of children in the age group 16 to 18 were not in school.

That evolution is taught only in Grades 10 to 12 biology means those pupils who drop biology in favour of other subjects (perhaps biblical studies) are going to enter life permanently at a disadvantage, unable to deal with challenges in an increasingly demanding South Africa, and in a world where such truths as evolution are accepted and taught.

One cannot dump a subject because it is a little challenging.

Teaching evolution can be exciting, especially for young adults - perhaps because of a fascination with primitive, extinct dragon-like creatures bred into human beings by, wait for it, evolution. Look into any toy shop window and you will see superb plastic models of extinct creatures. Many children develop a passion for collecting these.

And what is difficult about this?

"Evolution is the way new kinds of plants, animals and other living things come into being as a result of many small changes over a long period of time. Evidence from fossil ... shows that over millions of years new kinds of creatures have appeared. …