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UK Science Teaching Takes a Step Backward

Science education is not merely about cramming students with scientific facts. Indeed, it is not primarily about facts. Good science education is about training children to think scientifically, and this involves the usual scientific processes of building hypotheses and critically testing hypotheses. Most of the scientific information given to students during high school years is not actually factual, but the result of sophisticated theoretical development of ideas over time.

During my years as a high school science teacher in state-run schools in England and Wales (which would be called public schools in America, but not in Britain), I wrote and contributed to many major science curricula, including aspects of the National Curriculum in Science. The 1999 edition of the document Science in the National Curriculum (England) contained the following statement, which I believe all good science teachers should endorse.

Pupils shall be taught about how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence.1

This statement was made even more clear by the square-bracketed example given in the document.

[For example, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution]

In 1999, students in English high schools following the National Curriculum were not only allowed, but encouraged to question scientifically controversial areas of science, including Darwin’s theory of evolution. This contrasts with the current state of affairs, in which a tiny minority of vocal atheists, led by the notorious former professor, Richard Dawkins, has extracted this statement from the UK Government, about submissions for its new “free schools” program.

We do not expect creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas to be taught as valid scientific theories in any state funded school.2

Dawkins was once Oxford University’s “Professor for the Public Understanding of Science.” He has now succeeded, by disingenuous, bullying tactics, in preventing school children from undertaking scientific criticism of one important area of science3. This means that the fairytale known as evolution will now be taught, by government diktat, as fact in English schools.

If anything good can come from this sorry anti-scientific spectacle, it might be that Christian parents in England will wake up to the fact that the Bible places responsibility for their children’s education on them, not on the state, and that churches will start to sponsor many more independent Christian schools and homeschooling services as a result.

  1. Science in the National Curriculum (1999), (London: Department for Education), p46
  2. Department for Education, 2012, <http://education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/freeschools/freeschoolsfaqs/a0075656/free-schools-faqs-curriculum#faq4>
  3. Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists, The Observer, Saturday, January 14th 2012, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/15/free-schools-creationism-intelligent-design?newsfeed=true >
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