Turkey pulls evolution from its high school curriculum

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Enlarge / A young Charles Darwin, before evolution had caused any public controversy.

In the US, opponents of evolution have tried to undercut instruction on the topic by suggesting schools should “teach the controversy.” The national education authorities in Turkey, however, have decided that teachers should avoid any hint of controversy in the classroom. In service of that goal, the country is pulling evolution out of its high school curriculum entirely. The change will be implemented during the upcoming school year, 2017-2018.

In Turkey, the curriculum for state-run schools is set by the national government. The move against education in biology came as the state education authorities were undertaking a review of the national curriculum. Reports indicate that the review largely resulted in an emphasis on religious themes and Turkish culture and history, at the expense of information on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his role in the founding of the modern Turkish state.

But science got caught up in the process somehow. According to the head of the national board of education, Alpaslan Durmus, the problem is that Turkish students aren’t given the necessary scientific background to separate the theory from the controversy that it has generated in some communities:

We are aware that, if our students don’t have the background to comprehend the premises and hypotheses, or if they don’t have the knowledge and scientific framework, they will not be able to understand some controversial issues, so we have left out some of them.”

So, rather than bring the students up to speed on biology in earlier grades, Turkey has chosen to drop the subject entirely. If students want to understand biology, they’ll have to continue studying the topic in college.

The move has alarmed secular Turks, who are viewing it as a further encroachment by religious conservatives. Like many other countries, Turkey has a religiously motivated creationist community (one that includes some rather flamboyant public figures). But until the election of Recep Erdogan, religious figures had little influence on national policy.



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