ISTANBUL – Students in Turkey are returning to school Monday where they will be taught evolution for the last time in their biology classes. Next fall, evolution and Charles Darwin will be scrapped from their textbooks.
Turkey has announced an overhaul of more than 170 topics in the country’s school curriculum, including removing all direct references to evolution from high school biology classes.
The upcoming changes have caused uproar, with critics calling them a reshaping of education along the conservative, Islam-oriented government’s line. Opposition parties and unions have organized protests against the changes, demanding that Turkey provide a scientific, secular education for its students. Lawmakers have also opposed the new curriculum in parliament.
Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz said the new “value-based” program had simplified topics in “harmonization with students’ development.” He said evolutionary biology, which his ministry deemed was too advanced for high school, would still be taught in universities.
Evolution has been taught in 12th-grade biology classes in a chapter called “The Beginning of Life and Evolution.” The unit will be replaced by “Living Beings and the Environment” in September 2018 where evolutionary mechanisms like adaptation, mutation and natural and artificial selection will be taught without a mention of evolution or Darwin.
Yilmaz said students would learn the nature of being, including “evolution and other ontological opinions” in 11th-grade philosophy.
Other contentious changes include teaching about jihad or holy war in religion classes as the “love of homeland,” and a lessened emphasis on Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic who is revered by Turkey’s secularists. Ataturk instituted the separation of state and religion, but President Recep Tayyip…