Friday, October 28, 2016

Teaching evolution in the South: an educator on the “war for science literacy"

Sean Illing · Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 12:00 pm

A Georgia professor explains the unique cultural factors that create skepticism toward science in the South

Amanda Glaze is a professor of science education at Georgia Southern University. Before that she spent roughly a decade teaching K-12 in Georgia and Alabama.

She has spent her entire teaching career in the South.

Earlier this year, she produced a video for about the challenges she’s encountered as a science educator.

Teaching science, evolution in particular, can be a thankless job in this part of the country. In some communities, you’re colliding with a culture and a worldview that is both central to the identity of people and deeply threatened by scientific materialism.

“It is such a deeply personal and gut-wrenching reconstruction of identity,” Glaze says, “and you really have to be empathetic to that personal restructuring experience to understand why so many people reject evolution in spite of knowing a lot about it.”

Having grown up in the South, I know all too well what Glaze means here. I was never particularly religious, but I understand the pressures of living in a community defined by religion. There’s a price to be paid for defying cultural norms, whether it’s in a classroom or at a cocktail party.

Glaze, by dint of her profession, has violated several of these norms.

I spoke with her recently about the difficulties of teaching evolution in the South and her approach to improving scientific literacy in a place openly hostile to science.

Our conversation, edited for clarity and length, follows.

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