An editorial in the Boston Globe by Sally Lehrman addresses why understanding the theory of evolution is so important to those following the issue. One of the critical problems in the education field is the lack of knowledge:
As one of their complaints, intelligent design proponents claim that schools should do a better job of explaining evolution. They may very well be right. While people who believe in the scientific method do not accept the antievolution lobby's claim of "irreducible complexity," are they prepared with a coherent response? They might say "survival of the fittest" with conviction but only have a hazy recollection of terms like "descent with modification," "natural selection," and even "mutation."
This problem is a microcosm of the problems of American education in general. Hat tip again to NCSE.