British Government bans all existing and future Academies and Free Schools from teaching creationism as science

Government bans all existing and future Academies and Free Schools from teaching creationism as science

https://humanism.org.uk/2014/06/18/victory-government-bans-existing...

The Government has changed the rules to preclude all Academies and Free Schools, both those that already exist and those that will open in the future, from teaching pseudoscientific ideas such as creationism as scientifically valid. The changes have been made through extending an explicit ban to all future Academies and Free Schools, but also by clarifying that it believes the requirement to teach a broad and balanced curriculum means no existing Academies and Free Schools can teach pseudoscience either. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the news as representing a significant step towards achieving one of its longstanding policy goals.

In 2012 the Government precluded all future Free Schools (i.e. those not already open) from teaching pseudoscience as science and required them to teach evolution, as well as requiring them to promote British values. However it decided not to extend these requirements to Academies, and these changes did not apply to Free Schools that already existed.

But in April the Government extended all of these rules to future stand-alone Academies (i.e. those not part of a multi-Academy trust that do not already exist), as well as introducing new rules to stop religious discrimination in Free Schools from extending beyond the areas of admissions, employment, RE and assemblies (i.e. into areas such as other parts of the curriculum, uniform or food policies).

Now the Government has also extended these rules to future Academies that are part of multi-Academy trusts, meaning all future Academies are covered by them. But in addition it has also introduced new clauses for Church Academies helpfully clarifying the meaning of creationism and the fact that it is a minority view within the Church of England and Catholic Church, but also stating 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.’

In other words, in the Government’s view, if an Academy or Free School teaches creationism as scientifically valid then it is breaking the requirement to provide a broad and balanced curriculum. As every Academy and Free School has this requirement in its funding agreement, the implication of this interpretation is that no Academy and Free School, existing or future, can teach pseudoscience.

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.

‘However, there are other ongoing areas of concern, for example the large number of state financed creationist nurseries, or the inadequate inspection of private creationist schools, and continued vigilance is needed in the state-funded sector. We will continue to work for reform in the remaining areas, but are pleased that the vast majority of issues are now dealt with.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 020 7324 3072.

In full, the new Church Academy clauses state that:

23E) The parties acknowledge that clauses 2.43 and 2.44 of the Funding Agreement [which preclude the teaching of pseudoscience and require the teaching of evolution] 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 2.43 and 2.44 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 2.43 and 2.44 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.

Views: 135

Comment by Ed on June 19, 2014 at 7:42am

Great Britain is a hard one to figure out. On the one hand they allowed the establishment of Sharia law in local communities for the Muslim members of their society (gag!), but on the other side, they adopt this no nonsense view towards allowing their educators to espouse pseudoscience. 

Comment by Erock68la on June 19, 2014 at 8:56pm
Maybe so, Ed, but I'll take it.
Comment by Gallup's Mirror on June 20, 2014 at 1:18am

Wow. That's huge.

What happens if a school breaks the rule and teaches pseudoscience anyway? Loss of taxpayer funding?

Regrettably, it's not unusual for the opposite to happen in the United States, where creationism has been banned from public schools for 32 years, after the Supreme Court upheldlower court ruling that it's "simply not science".

Comment by Strega on June 20, 2014 at 11:20am
@Gallup. If the school breaches governmental educational directives, it loses it's license to operate as a school. Education is compulsory for children under the age of 16, so if a child is enrolled at a school which subsequently loses it's license, that child is considered not to be enrolled in school, and therefore the parents of that child must place the child in an alternate establishment. This would be enforced by the Child Protection Agency.
Comment by Gallup's Mirror on June 20, 2014 at 2:00pm

@Gallup. If the school breaches governmental educational directives, it loses it's license to operate as a school. Education is compulsory for children under the age of 16, so if a child is enrolled at a school which subsequently loses it's license, that child is considered not to be enrolled in school, and therefore the parents of that child must place the child in an alternate establishment. This would be enforced by the Child Protection Agency.

Now that's sensible. I wish the US had something akin to that. Here, when a school violates the law on religious grounds, essentially nothing happens.

Case in point: the American Humanist Association sued in federal court to stop a school making its students pray to Jesus. The Court did nothing except order the school to stop it. There was no consequence, which is probably why the school is still doing it anyway.

Now the AHA is filing a motion for contempt against the school. I don't know what the penalties would be, but I rather doubt the school would be shut down and the kids made to enroll elsewhere. More likely the school district would have to pay a fine, while the school officials who perpetrated the violation (twice) would get to keep their school (and their jobs).

Comment by ɐuɐz ǝllǝıuɐp on June 23, 2014 at 8:39pm

I agree with abolishing the religious theistic nonsence as  long as they don't ban genetic engineering, and human manipulated interbreeding with it, since much of foodstuffs are bred including domestic animals, and I perceive it as a form of creationsim..by human beings, but is there a definition for non-natural selection evolution ?http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_breeding

btw weven theists believe the domestic dog and cat were created by god, but in fact were created by human beings by selective breeding, from the original animal.

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on June 23, 2014 at 9:40pm

Ed - I have yet to hear of a single instance of a Sharia jurisdiction in the U.K.  I keep hearing a lot of fear mongering over this that points to ethnic neighbourhoods following ethnic traditions - but so far all claims that I've pursued regarding the creation of Sharia jurisdictions in western nations have turned out to be complete, utter, and usually hate-inciting malarkey.  I have yet to see any example that goes beyond anything like the self-policing of other ethnic groups that is a regular occurrence where ever immigration rates are high.

Comment by Dr. Bob on June 24, 2014 at 12:38pm

Good on the Brits for addressing this issue.  I can't stand the pseudo-science claptrap in schools, even as a theist, so it's always a bit heartening when it's stopped.

I confess, though, that I worry a great deal about government control of education and curriculum.  U.S. government control of some research funding and reporting has led to some problem cases in areas like climate change, as those who wield the political clout are rarely very knowledgeable outside of the skills required to be elected.    There are lots of jurisdictions in the U.S. where if we allowed the level of government control over schools like the Brits just exercised, they would eliminate real science entirely.  Even now, elementary school science in most of the U.S. is extremely weak owing to the government's ill-advised testing of only math and reading.  

So I worry that once we use school curriculum to push any sort of agenda, whether it's pro-science, anti-science, or "British Values", we create all kinds of opportunities for bad actors or unintended consequences.  Ultimately people have to choose to be educated; they have to choose to educate their kids.    We want them to choose that; we want them to choose well.  That should be our real focus.

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