February 2024 Church & State Magazine - February 2024

National Center for Science Education names new executive director

 

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a key ally of Americans United that works to ensure that children in public schools receive accurate education about science, has named Amanda L. (Glaze) Townley as its new executive director.

Townley, formerly an associate professor of middle grades and secondary science education at Georgia Southern University, replaces Ann Reid, who led NCSE since 2014. Reid followed Eugenie C. Scott, a physical anthropologist who ran NCSE from 1987-2014.

At Georgia Southern, Townley specialized in science teacher education, evolution education research and science-literacy-focused public outreach. Her research centered on the intersections of science and society, specifically the acceptance and rejection of evolution and climate change, misconceptions and misuse of the nature of science in anti-science movements and the impact of perceived conflicts between scientific understandings and culture on science literacy. She received her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Alabama.

“I am thrilled to welcome Amanda Townley as the new Executive Director of NCSE,” Kenneth R. Miller, president of NCSE’s Board of Directors, said in a media statement. “A longtime champion of effective and accurate science education, she will bring her experience and passion to the work of NCSE as she spearheads our efforts to support and defend science education in today’s challenging environment.”

Townley received the 2018 Evolution Education Award and the 2020 Biology Education Research Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. She has served as an expert panelist for NPR’s “Science Friday” and has worked with organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic. Her research has appeared in scholarly journals such as Nature Ecology & Evolution, Science Education and The American Biology Teacher. She is also president of the National Association of Biology Teachers for 2024.

“NCSE has long been a trusted companion on my journey as a science educator and advocate, as it has for countless teachers and students nationwide over its 41-year history,” Townley said. “It is both humbling and an honor to have the opportunity to serve this organization and the community of science education supporters who make its mission possible. I look forward to helping NCSE advance its mission of promoting and defending accurate and effective science education, since I wholeheartedly agree that everyone deserves to engage with the evidence.”

Townley was raised in a Southern Baptist ministry family. In a press statement, NCSE noted that she “brings to her research and outreach first-hand experience of the challenges involved when there is a divergence between scientific understanding and personal beliefs.”

Aside from its work promoting the teaching of evolution in public schools, NCSE also helps science teachers understand climate change and the nature of science generally.

NCSE played a crucial role in a 2004 legal challenge to the teaching of “intelligent design” creationism in the public schools of Dover, Pa. Plaintiffs in the case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, were represented by Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP. NCSE lined up expert witnesses and acted as a consultant on scientific matters.

In December of 2005, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III issued a 139-page decision in the plaintiffs’ favor. Jones ruled that intelligent design is not science but an inherently religious view, and he found the school district’s actions unconstitutional.

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