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Project to Discuss Race and Genetics in Class

High school biology classes largely avoid discussing race, but a new study starting this month plans to address race and genetics in the hopes of clarifying students' misperceptions, the New York Times reports.

Researchers from BSCS Science Learning are enlisting high school teachers to have tough discussions about race with their students, a topic many biology classes have avoided by noting that race is a social, rather than biological, construct, the Times adds. But, it says, some teachers think that approach of avoidance may not be working, it says. According to the Times, one in five respondents to a survey of affluent, majority-white high school students agreed with unfounded statements like "Members of one racial group are more ambitious than members of another racial group because of genetics."

BSCS's Brian Donovan is training a handful of teachers to dispel these misconceptions, as middle schools and high schools are often the only place students learn about genetics. In a pilot study, he found that students who followed a version of his curriculum were less likely to say that racial groups have  particular qualities due to genetics.

"The thing to remember is that kids are already making sense of race and biology, but with no guidance," he tells the Times.