Plate tectonics has been in elementary curriculum for a good 20 years. Nothing technical. Students are just presented with the fact that there are plates and that they move around, very very slowly pushing up some mountains and pushing down others. I still remember my very irreligious middle school science teacher telling us that most people have a problem understanding gradualism and that for most people catastrophism is a lot easier to swallow. If you think about it, it's true. Most people have trouble imagining a movement as slow as an inch in a couple years. They like the idea of earth shattering movements in a split second much much more.
Added by edit.
Just how many movies of natural disasters do you know with the disaster hitting people very very very very slowly? Just imagine what the ratings for the movie The Day After Tomorrow would have been like if the ice age hit the northern hemisphere in a timespan of several thousand years rather than just a couple of weeks?
Edited by Taz, : No reason given.
I'm trying to see things your way, but I can't put my head that far up my ass.