Whose Authority? Perceptions of Science Education in Black and Latino Churches
Recent scholarship argues that beliefs in biblical literalism might keep conservative Protestants out of STEM. Two of the groups that are most underrepresented in STEM, black Americans and Latinos, are also two of the most religious populations in the United States, and specifically overrepresented in theologically conservative Christian traditions. Yet, prior work also suggests that churches help promote positive educational outcomes. To interrogate the potential relationship between STEM educational aspirations and religious faith, we explore how black and Latino Christians perceive the potential impact of science education on religious faith. Analysis of 40 interviews reveals that both black Americans and Latinos have concerns about science teachers being biased. Yet, the groups differ in their assessment of the danger of anti-religious bias. Black Americans put confidence in the Christian community to incubate children from harm to their faith; therefore, they believe the effect of science education on religious faith is either neutral or positive. Latinos, however, raise concerns about the authority of science educators, rather than science curriculum. Overall, the results shift the conversation on conservative religion and science education from solely discussing content to exploring issues of bias and authority.
KeywordsScience Education Race Churches African Americans Latinos
Research for this article was part of the Religious Understandings of Science Study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation (Grant 38817, Elaine Howard Ecklund, principal investigator).
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