“We’re teaching science in a climate of denial,” biology teacher Beth Adler said. “We have legislated denial.”

From the theory of evolution to climate change, teachers are becoming wary of teaching basic scientific consensus because of the potential backlash they can face, she said.

“This leads to intimidated and capitulating teachers,” she said. “We need courage. It is scary,” Adler said. “We need to hear ‘Thank you for teaching the scientific consensus.’”

Adler said she’s faced 14- and 15-year-old students, some of them in tears, “ready to argue basic scientific principles,” and other students “thinking that climate change is a liberal hoax.”

Adler, physics teacher Matthew Perkins and math teacher Karla Mullins spoke to attendees at the latest Oak Ridge Forum on Religion and Science.

Faced with those new stresses and pressures to boost student performance, “there’s no comfort at all in teaching,” Mullins said. “Everything you do is questioned.”