Setting an historic precedent, representatives from over 45 scientific, educational, and media organizations gathered at the University of California at Berkeley, October 5-8, 2000 to develop strategies for improving public understanding of evolution. The first National Conference on the Teaching of Evolution (NCTE) was supported by the National Science Foundation, the University of California Museum of Paleontology, and the Geological Society of America.
Emphasizing evolution as a unifying theme across scientific disciplines and the benefits to society of teaching evolution, discussions focused on developing recommendations that individuals and organizations can employ to support quality science education — in the classroom, in the informal science setting, and as part of life-long learning. Evolution is good science and is economically and socially relevant. Modern research in agriculture, medicine and human health, and global environmental change depend on understanding evolutionary concepts.
The conference was a catalyst for building alliances among organizations, generating new strategies for supporting evolution education, and widely sharing the wealth of existing resources. The participants agreed that it is important that societies increase their efforts in support of teaching evolution. Societies may consider the following statement to be a starting point in developing a resolution:
Evolution is good science. Understanding evolution and the nature of science is important to society. [Our society] supports teaching evolution and the nature of science in our nation’s classrooms and informal science centers.
Further, the participants developed a list of actions that societies might consider implementing. Some of these are
- Develop outreach efforts that build off the momentum that will be generated by the fall, 2001 release of the WGBH television series Evolution.
- Emphasize evolution at annual and regional meetings by holding symposia focusing on evolution, teacher workshops, short courses, incentives for student research in evolution, etc.
- Provide information and crash-courses for journalists who write about evolution.
- Link web pages related to evolution education across scientific disciplines and among scientific and educational organizations.
- Partner among scientists and educators to develop teaching modules and resources that have an evolutionary theme.
- Provide useful informational resources to members who want to help with local efforts to support the teaching of evolution.
- Reach out to scientific, educational, political, governmental, religious, philanthropic, and private sector partners to accomplish the goals of support the teaching of evolution.
The participants endorsed the overall principle that societies should expand their knowledge base and inform each other of their activities. They realized that this may involve putting time, effort, and dollars into actions, and that societies need to work together for the long-term common good.