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Kicking Creationism Out of UK Science Classrooms is a Good Start

Kicking Creationism Out of UK Science Classrooms is a Good Start

The UK government has issued new regulations that say the teaching of creationism as scientific fact is forbidden in all schools, a big step forward for ensuring the integrity of scientific education.

The news, published this month as part of a review of regulations on the forming and administration of what are known in the UK as academies and free schools, that is schools which are funded by the state but are managed by outside parties, means that all schools that receive government funding cannot teach creationism as a valid scientific theory or they will lose that funding.

The rules state:

… [the] requirement for every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in any case prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school.

Other independent schools were already precluded from teaching creationism as science, as are all other state funded schools. This is in fact the culmination of a series of changes that have attempted to stop the practice of religious academy schools undermining scientific teaching by teaching “alternatives” to the Big Bang and evolution.

In 2012, and under intense pressure from both teachers unions and secular groups, the government announced that all free schools founded after that time would be required to teach evolution. However, that decision didn’t extend to all academies, and academies and free schools that were already open weren’t affected.

Earlier this year the government decided to extend those provisions to cover future stand-alone academies, or those that are not part of a group where academies already existed. Now, the new regulations published this month serve to cover all academy groups. In addition, the regulations make it clear to religious-backed schools that creationism is a minority view that is not scientific and should not be taught as such.

Crucially, the new church academy clauses actually define creationism so there is no wiggle room:

[A] doctrine or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth and therefore rejects the scientific theory of evolution. The parties acknowledge that creationism, in this sense, is rejected by most mainstream churches and religious traditions, including the major providers of state funded schools such as the [Anglican] [Catholic] Churches, as well as the scientific community. It does not accord with the scientific consensus or the very large body of established scientific evidence; nor does it accurately and consistently employ the scientific method, and as such it should not be presented to pupils at the Academy as a scientific theory.

The new regulations, however, do specifically state that creationism can be taught as a religious belief in Religious Education and Religious Studies lessons, as can all other facets of faith.

The effects of this should not be understated. There are number of creationist schools in the UK which have until now appeared to be getting away with undermining scientific literacy and promoting creationism as a fact equal to evolution by natural selection. As such, this move has been greeted warmly by those who campaigned to get creationism out of the science classroom, chief among them the British Humanist Association:

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘In 2011 our “Teach evolution, not creationism” campaign called for enforceable rules saying that creationism cannot be presented as a valid scientific theory in any publicly-funded school. Now the Government has extended such an explicit rule to all new Academies and Free Schools and made it clear that it believes that existing rules mean that no Academy or Free School can teach pseudoscience.

‘Coupled with the fact that maintained schools must follow the national curriculum, which from September will include a module on evolution at the primary level — the other thing we called for — we believe that this means that the objectives of the campaign are largely met. We congratulate the Government on its robust stance on this issue.

There are still some troubling problems with the UK’s free schools and religious academies, though. Aside from the issue of a number of largely-unregulated creationist nursery schools, reports say that at least 30 schools in the UK which are run by Christian Education Europe and use the US-based Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) model and teaching literature are using text books that teach that evolution is, essentially, a lie. This alone should be enough to now discontinue state funding.

In addition, the schools’ textbooks call homosexuality a choice by misstating scientific facts that homosexuality is a “learned behavior” and compares homosexuality to the sins of “murder” and “stealing.” It also teaches that AIDS can be guarded against by simply following the Bible, which is incredibly dangerous. The schools have defended themselves by saying that pupils are exposed to a range of ideas and that this is a “starting point” and not representative of the broader curriculum.

There are number of other schools, many of them religious, that have also been found to be teaching various untruths about homosexuality, and in some cases calling for homosexuals to be killed. The Department for Education has said that this kind of rhetoric is outside the regulations provided by the government and the UK’s equality laws. However, this speaks to a wider problem with academy schools: that government oversight is rolled back to allow the schools the freedom to run per their own ethos. That’s fine so long as the schools can be trusted to do so within regulations, but on several occasions, and particularly on issues like homosexuality and sexual health, we know religious schools believe their faith supersedes facts and equality laws.

In order to ensure that kids are getting a fair and healthy education, the government will need to venture further than just banning creationism from science classrooms. In fact, it should consider the appropriateness of having religious institutions designing school curricula at all.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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119 comments

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12:53PM PDT on Jun 30, 2014

Leigh E., I've read the bible, that's why I can criticize it and those who believe it to be true. You seem to be confused as to who has to prove what. No one has to "DISPROVE the existence of God" since no one has PROVED it exists in the first place. First prove a god exists then everyone can judge the evidence.

4:50PM PDT on Jun 29, 2014

ok

2:29PM PDT on Jun 28, 2014

And we talk about freedom of speech and choice.

A bit difficult if we ban one of the choices. Bunch of hypocrites.

I would love to see some of the proof of evolution. FACT : there is none, just speculation and hypothesis.

Philip W.

Only to the so called Christians who have mis-interpreted The Bible. The New Testament and the Gospels are very clear on how we should live.

It's such a shame that so many atheists criticize before actually reading The Bible. I think they are afraid that they might learn something.

One main problem is that if they learn that there is a God then we must answer to that God and that means that we must repent of our sins. But they don't want to repent, they just want to go on living their sinful ways even though it is destructive and killing them.

And so we go on and on inventing other stories to back up previous ideas but until they manage to DISPROVE the existence of God and PROVE evolution, their ban remains hypocritical.

12:02PM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

Religion is just a mechanism used to justify hate, prejudice, racism, and disparity.

"How can you have order in a state without religion? For, when one man is dying of hunger near another who is sick from overeating, he cannot resign himself to this difference unless there is an authority which declares, 'This is God's will.'...Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich." - Napoleon Bonaparte

11:24AM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

If a theory is true, it must be proven. An example would be gravity. Step off a cliff & - VOILA - you have your proof.

11:23AM PDT on Jun 27, 2014

I prefer Carl Sagan's comments on religion & science. He found science inspirational and as spiritual as religion. He also said the religious should embrace science:

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of it.
How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science & concluded, "This is better than we thought. The Universe is so much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?" Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god and I want him to stay that way." Any religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by conventional faiths."

Little minds, little faith, little progress in my opinion. This ties in with another of his quotes on human folly:

"We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it's forever."

8:50PM PDT on Jun 26, 2014

Creationism as scientific fact...does not belong in any science class. For religious upbringing, parents can choose to send their children to Sunday school and instruct them in religious matters at home if that is their desire to do so. Science class is for learning about science.

8:00PM PDT on Jun 26, 2014

As per usual, I see some are confused about what "theory" and "fact" mean, well, what they mean when SCIENTISTS use the term. So here goes, here is the National Academy Of Science definition for both terms:

A scientic theory is "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences and tested hypothesis."

A fact is defined as "an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as 'true.'

The theory attempts to explain the observed phenomena of evolution, just as Atomic Theory attempts to explain the property and behavior of atoms, Gravitation Theory attempts to explain the properties and behavior of gravity and Quantum Theory attempts to explain quantum phenomena

7:51PM PDT on Jun 26, 2014

Interesting that the most successful school in the world is in Russia where the students set their own curriculum and even built the school themselves and these children do not study religion but spiritualism. By the time they are teenagers they have a number of degrees under their belt, they finish their primary and secondary grades in average of 4 years. They also live at this school. They are not told by government and other what to learn they in fact teach each other from senior to junior and vice versus.

7:43PM PDT on Jun 26, 2014

The proof of science is based on coming up with a better version theory to support the accepted theory as real. So to stay employed they keep creating a better theory. No different to religions both are just a business for profit and survival.

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