The closing paragraph, however, really hit home for me:
Whichever way the argument over intelligent design is finally resolved, it is likely to damage science teaching. This is not because bad science standards will necessarily be adopted but because - as Diane Ravitch of the Brookings Institute showed in "The Language Police" in 2003 - the biggest threat to high standards is the unwillingness of state Boards of education to offend any sort of pressure group, whether right or left. Instead, they avoid controversial topics altogether. In 2000, a survey by the Fordham foundation found that only ten states taught evolution fully, six did so skimpily and in 13 the treatment was considered useless or absent. (Kansas received an F minus, and "disgraceful".) These failings shame American evolution teaching, and the manufactured controversy over intelligent design will to nothing to make them better.
In my whole K-12 career, I had three classes that had a big opportunity to talk about evolution: middle school physical&earth science, and high school first and second year biology.
The earth science teacher was, on the whole, a great guy. He made an admirable attempt to give us an idea of the scientific method, including having us run experiments of our own design. One such student experiment influenced real-world decision making by showing an energy-saving idea the school was using didn't work, and got the school to drop it. At the beginning of the year, he took written questions from the class and answered them. One such question was whether he'd talk about evolution. Answer: "Yes, but we'll also talk about creationism." I don't think he actually rejected evolution; he was just planning to tread lightly. Not that it mattered, the discussion never came.
In first-year biology, we got the bare bones of evolutionary theory. However, it was prefaced with the disclaimer, "If you think this is totally against your beliefs, you can just think of this as one of the theories out there." At the time, I recognized it as an unfortunate bit of appeasement, but I've come to realize that it was also a lie on an enormous scale. A lie very clearly told out of fear of a theoretically unsuccessful movement.
My second year biology teacher just seems to have forgotten to mention the subject. From her in-class denunciations of opponents of stem-cell research and medical testing on animals, I don't think she was the type to cower in fear of creationists. But with no state standards or anything reminding her she had to teach it, she didn't. This happened in spite of good opportunities to at least touch on the subject. We spent a lot of time on taxonomy, but never were we told that the system works because of common descent.
I know I've learned more about evolution outside of school than in, but I think this was even true before I decided to begin educating myself on the subject. Granted, I have a science teacher for a mother, so I'm not the norm, but it's still pathetic when a kid learns more about an important subject from his mother than school.
Not surprisingly, the report referenced in the Economist article grades my state, Wisconsin, as a D.
The lesson is clear: proponents of good science can't be lulled into thinking the only challenge is keeping creationism out of schools. This happens easily, with all states theorectically teaching evolution, and enemies of evolution using mantras like "teach both sides" which imply that they don't oppose teaching evolution. The reality is we must also support teaching evolution with the vigor we oppose teaching creationism.