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Roger DeHart

  • Biology Teacher, Burlington High School, Burlington, WA

I think American schools teach too little about evolution. I think that a lot of the information regarding evolution is taught uncritically. They’re not asking students to really examine the evidence given and to ask whether or not that’s a plausible explanation. It’s more or less regurgitate the facts, regurgitate what we’ve told you. Don’t question. Because if you question, that means you must have a religious motive and that must motivate your objections to evolution, rather than the science.

Censored, Reassigned

Roger DeHart had taught biology at Burlington High School in Washington State for 14 years. In addition to teaching the prescribed curriculum on evolution, this popular teacher supplemented the unit with information on intelligent design and scientific criticism of evolution. He presented scientific articles from mainstream sources and engaged students in critical thinking about the Cambrian explosion as a challenge to the power of natural selection and random mutations to account for rapidly diverging animal body plans. Students also examined scientific articles critical of Haeckel’s embryos as evidence for universal common ancestry. This discussion comprised one day out of his two-week evolution unit.

After a parent complained to the ACLU in 1997, he faced severe pushback. The school told him not to mention intelligent design. He complied, but then they said he could not supplement the curriculum with peer-reviewed literature criticizing aspects of evolution or correcting textbook errors. He was finally forbidden from verbally conveying information on evolution not found in the textbook and could not foster student discussion of neo-Darwinism’s scientific strengths and weaknesses.

In 2001, the school reassigned him to Earth science; he was no longer permitted to teach high school biology. His replacement was a PE teacher. But when he left Burlington and got a job teaching biology at a nearby high school, the ordeal at Burlington followed him and administrators transferred him to another subject.