A great result for those of us who have been applying pressure to the government here on the issue of creationism in schools. The Government has been giving ground piecemeal over the last few months - first agreeing to issue guidelines to existing schools, then agreeing to broaden them. The recent headlines over Muslim fundamentalism in schools really put a fire under the issue, and kicked the civil servants into action - it was a total gift for 'our side'.
I learned today that the Government has now completely accepted the suggestions from the British Humanist Association and others pretty much in their entirety - sufficiently to satisfy me - it will now issue the following to all existing, and proposed future academies, including those with a specific religious designation.....At bleedin last.
|23E) The parties acknowledge that clauses 2.44 and 2.45 of the Funding Agreement apply to all academies. They explicitly require that pupils are taught about the theory of evolution, and prevent academy trusts from teaching 'creationism' as scientific fact.
23F) 'Creationism', for the purposes of clauses 2.44 and 2.45 of the Funding Agreement and clause 23E above, is any 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.
23G) The parties recognise that the teaching of creationism is not part of prevailing practice in the English education system, but acknowledge that it is however important that all schools are clear about what is expected in terms of the curriculum which they need to provide. The parties further recognise that the requirement on 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.
23H) The Secretary of State acknowledges that clauses 2.44 and 2.45 of the Funding Agreement, and clauses 23E and 23G above do not prevent discussion of beliefs about the origins of the Earth and living things, such as creationism, in Religious Education, as long as it is not presented as a valid alternative to established scientific theory.
Ah, yes, i read about that a few months back. That's an enormous and important step forward.
Interestingly enough, just a day or two ago, there was a major ruling in the US about homeschooling. Historically, in the US, homeschooling has been the hardcore religious person's way to indoctrinate their helpless kids with nonsense and hate under the banner of freedom. No one has had the guts to take the homeschoolers on and assert standards and oversight because no one wants to fight the fundamentalist voting bloc, and because the Supreme Court ruled in a case that is broadly interpreted as supporting homeschooling for any religious reasons, so they've more or less had free rein to do as they please. Well, in Texas a 17 year-old girl ran away from home because she wanted a real education. Her parents had opted to homeschool their 9 children, with emphasis on the "home", not so much on the "school". In fact, arguably predictably, they didn't really bother to teach the kids anything at all, other than the Bible, under the logic that it was unnecessary because they were going to be "raptured". The case went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, and they ruled that the older Supreme Court ruling was misinterpreted - the state can and should set standards for homeschooling, and homeschoolers must abide by those standards. We don't know yet if this will be appealed, and if so if it will make it to the Supreme Court, but if it stands, that's a huge blow for those people who think they can just yank their kids out of public school and keep them ignorant.
There have been a few other interesting noises in this direction recently, too, which makes me wonder if we're witnessing the vanguard of a real change - a new era where education is understood to be both a fundamental right and an absolute necessity to function in the modern world, and where parents do not have the right to unilaterally deny education to kids. I think it is morally wrong for parents to let their beliefs ruin the childrens' lives by denying them the freedoms and opportunities that come with education. The mindset that children are the property of their parents to mold as they wish is archaic, and should be consigned to the dustbins of history.
Pity there's nothing happening in that direction here in Canada, but then that's not surprising, given our current government.
We can certainly hope that this heralds a significant change in societal attitudes. I must admit that the scale and speed of our victory here surprised me. I had expected this to be a long, drawn-out scrap with every word fought-over. Instead the Government, and more significantly, the mandarins of the Dept for Education, have accepted the required changes without a murmur. I'm pretty sure that this is, at least in part, due to the high profile issue of Islamic fundamentalism in state schools. Ironically this only hit the headlines because of a spat between two Tory ministers - Michael Gove (the ex Minister for Education) and Theresa May (Home Secretary). The issue of the Birmingham 'trojan horse plot' was, until that point, a page 2 headline at most. When Gove stupidly decided to try to deflect criticism onto the Home Office, he no doubt thought he would get away with it, since this is his general modus operandi. He foolishly underestimated Theresa May. Her standing in the party is much higher than his, and she is a pretty formidable operator (female Home Secretary - do the maths). She chewed him up and spat him out with a single question about the Dept for Education's failure to act on earlier warnings...Gove was a busted flush and was promptly ordered to do the media rounds, apologising and pretending all was sweetness and light. No surprise when he was moved in the next reshuffle. There was much smiling and good cheer in staff-rooms throughout the land.
The upshot of this spat was that the original story became page 1 leading headline, and the political big beasts were roused into action. The last thing they wanted was another front to be opened up, and the issue of creationist teaching in state schools was just such. The issue was promptly dealt with and neutralised.
That, in any case, is my understanding of events. It doesn't, however, necessarily mean that there isn't a wider change afoot - let's hope so.
Great! I am very happy to hear this
Right now I'd be satisfied if we could just get Creationism out of the schools in the U.S. Creationism is still taught as fact in various private schools. Even if evolution isn't taught, I'd be happy if Creationism was banned. That's just one step at a time.
Of course our problem is that a large percentage of Americans tend to think that religious freedom means "the right to practice Christianity and implement it at a government level but no other religions." The hypocrisy is annoying. Any time a secular law brings down a picture of Jesus in a public school it causes an uproar as people cry "religious intolerance" but if it was a reference to any non-Christian religion it would be a large victory.
But you have an advantage over us. Creationism IS banned in the US. The Constitution bans it and the Dover-Kitzmiller trials uphold the position. I know that it is taught regardless - as it no doubt will be here in some schools - but you, at least, have the law on your side,
As an update which takes this in another direction (I might open a separate thread) - I mentioned that the former Education secretary Michael Gove made a critical mistake by taking on Theresa May (Home Secretary) because of her standing within the party.....well....
Yesterday at the Tory annual conference Theresa May made a frightening speech about Tory planned legislation. One must remember that on these occasions the speeches are aimed at Tory grass-root supporters, and, right or wrong, that is seen to be people who love talk of the type bash the immigrants and lock up everyone under 40 on general principle. One therefore expects to hear much jingoistic nonsense and right-wing chest-beating.
This, however, sounds like real proposed legislation. She is proposing to introduce sweeping powers to restrict freedom of expression.
|Bikerman wrote: |
|But you have an advantage over us. Creationism IS banned in the US. The Constitution bans it and the Dover-Kitzmiller trials uphold the position. I know that it is taught regardless - as it no doubt will be here in some schools - but you, at least, have the law on your side, |
Ehhhh.... Sort of. Creationism is banned as a topic in PUBLIC schools. Private schools - which are usually religious institutions - usually teach Creationism (because they are usually church-based schools). Home schooling is often used as a way to indoctrinate children. According to this Christian-based organization advocating homeschooling as a valid way of indoctrination, 3.4% of the U.S. school population is home schooled (although I really don't trust this website; although I am sure that it is quite a high number regardless). According to this website, 10% of American students are in private schools - the majority of them are Christian schools (you can view the chart). That adds up to over 13% of students probably legally being taught Creationism.
But.... It gets even worse:
1. Most states in the U.S. offer tax reduction vouchers to parents wishing to home-school or private school their children. This means that tax payers are actually funding Creationism.
2. The state of Missouri (or, as I like to spell it, Misery (because that's how it is pronounced and it accurately describes that Mid-Western hell-hole)) actually requires schools to send home permission slips so that evolution can be taught. Given that Misery is a Mid-Western hell-hole, I am sure that many parents feel that their children are their own personal property ergo refuse to let their children receive a science education.