Secular triumph as government bans creationism from free schools and academies

By Ian Dunt

Creationism cannot be taught as a valid scientific theory in any free school or academy, the government has said.

The move, which came in a little noticed document last week, marks a significant victory for secular campaigners, who have long fought to ensure the freedom granted to free schools and academies does not allow religious ideas to be taught in science classes.

New clauses for church academies published on June 9th clarify the meaning of creationism and state that it is a minority view within the Church of England and Catholic church.

It then adds: “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.”

Because every free school and academy is required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in its funding agreement, the explicit statement that creationism is incompatible with it bars the teaching of it as a scientific theory.

The move is the culmination of a long campaign by secularists, who first succeeded in getting creationism banned from all future free schools, then future stand-alone academies and then finally all future multi-academy trusts.

It is the first time the rule has applied to current free schools and academies, however.

Questions were asked about why it took the government so long to impose the bar on creationism, given concerns about it being taught were raised as soon as the academies programme was introduced.

“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, we believe that this means that the objectives of the campaign are largely met,” British Humanist Association head of public affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented.

22 COMMENTS

  1. @OP- It then adds: “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.”

    Because every free school and academy is required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in its funding agreement, the explicit statement that creationism is incompatible with it bars the teaching of it as a scientific theory.

    It does not however prevent them from teaching that there is “a controversy to debate”, or a “theistic version of evolution”, in the deep-seated problems of “faith-school” religious education lessons.

    This measure is a half-hearted remedy for a problem created by stupid ideological politicians in the first place.

    If these schools had not been set up to remove them Local Authority Supervision and National Curriculum requirements, the abuses would either not have arisen, or would have been dealt with locally at an earlier stage.

    It is the pretence that ignorant politicians, lacking/ignoring professional advice, along with their followers, unqualified staff, and amateur governors, “know better” than teachers and academics, on how to run education and schools.

    Headteachers pass vote of no confidence in education policies - http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/may/18/michael-gove-fanatical-personal-trainer

    Delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) conference in Birmingham raised concerns about the new national curriculum, major test and exam reforms and schools being forced into becoming academies.

    The UK’s three biggest teachers’ unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the NASUWT passed similar votes at their Easter conferences.

    NUT passes unanimous vote of no confidence in Michael Gove
    Teachers at union conference call for education secretary to resign, saying policy is based on ‘dogma and political rhetoric’ http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/apr/02/nut-no-confidence-michael-gove

    Gove had “chosen to base policy on dogma, political rhetoric and his own limited experience of education” and made “drastic” changes to schools without consulting parents, teachers, children, governors or councils, the motion said. It added that Gove had demoralised the profession with a “discourse of failure” and carried out government business through private emails.

    Michael Gove gets vote of no confidence at teachers’ union conference
    NASUWT
    does not rule out industrial action in campaign to protect state education
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/apr/24/michael-gove-vote-no-confidence-teachers-union

    It included an amendment that said teachers “have no confidence in the education policies of the coalition government”. The coalition has introduced measures to allow all schools to become academies, and to allow parents, teachers and charities to set up free schools.

    The resolution said the government’s plans were opening up education to the private sector, leading to “inequality of educational entitlement, lack of public accountability and abuse of the system”.

    Keates said Gove was invited to attend the conference, but declined.

    The expert advice was there for those who were prepared to listen.

    Right-wing ideologists have been consistently incapable of understanding, and perversely uneducatable, on the need for regulations to maintain standards across the whole sector, without “opt-outs” for their opportunist friends, business associates, and voters.

    • Je— Ch—t, Alan4 – you’ve really stepped up the Party political criticism recently. We get it, you hate the Conservatives.

      You must know that the teachers unions are some of the most Political and left wing organisations out there. They are free to give us their opinions, safe in knowledge that they will never be judged as they don’t have executive power over the system. So I’m not inclined to take anything they say seriously as it will always be knocking from the side. They even fall out with Labour governments most of the time as they are not left wing enough.

      The one size fits all childcare and education system that you seem to be proposing, has been a model for all authoritarian governments over the years. They want (famously like the Jesuits) to take the child and create the adult to fit their ‘isms of choice. Is that what you want because, when you become our leader and set up the education system you want, I’ve a feeling, not everyone will agree with your ideas – including the contrarian teacher unions. Then what are you going to do? Lock them up? What’s worse, you may not even be right about you preferred model or your curriculum. Still, North Korea is a nice place, I hear.

  2. That this measure has had to be taken at all is an absolute disgrace, and a damning indictment of the current opportunistic fragmentation of our education system in the UK.

    It’s nothing short of a betrayal of our scientific heritage.

    It’s worrying to say the least when our elected representatives stop bending over backwards on our behalf, and start bending over forwards; press barons and dictators know only too well about these weaknesses and exploit them to the full.

  3. Gove is like a carpenter who puts the latch and bolts on the hinge style of the door and acts surprised when the door can still be opened with sufficient effort. The liars for Mo and Jeebus will find a way. They seep through the pores of cretinous politicians with the ease of Mephistophelean miasma.

  4. I am from the Netherlands and cannot speak for any actions taken by the English government (in my opinion).
    But the funny thing is i realize…in about, lets say, 200 years or so. people will look back at this day, altough just for a brief moment and probably laughing quite hard, and say things like: Oh dear, can u believe that? Some people actually still believed that in those days?

    makes me feel ashamed that am part of this moment in time right now.

    Ah well, one step at a time it seems :-)

  5. We shall wait and see what actually happens, but knowing Gove’s form I am not expecting much in the way of enforcement which of course is the only true test of these rules. Do not expect it will be long before we see the press claiming that some religious nutter school flouting the law and the govt sitting on its hands.

    • Miserablegit – We shall wait and see what actually happens, but knowing Gove’s form I am not expecting much in the way of enforcement which of course is the only true test of these rules.

      Unfortunately the UK has a Prime Minister who cannot open his mouth, without putting his foot in it – illustrating his lack of understanding of basic law!

      Judge rebukes Cameron for comments on Coulson conviction http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28014035
      The judge in the phone hacking trial has rebuked David Cameron for commenting on the conviction of Andy Coulson before the trial ended.

      Mr Justice Saunders said his intervention was “unsatisfactory” and set a bad example to the media.

      The prime minister has apologised for employing former News of the World editor Coulson as his media chief.

      Another of Cameron’s woefully inept appointments to government office, added to his meddling collection of comically clueless “old-boy” ministers!
      Gove, Pickles, Owen Patterson, Jeremy Hunt … . . . .

  6. This is, indeed, very good news. But I can’t help wondering about something that bothers me : WHY is it that this “creationnist” bs hysteria happens mainly in anglo-saxon countries ??? ( I mean.. in the western world —forget muslim countries )

    I might be wrong, but I never heard of such need to fight —sometimes as hard as they apparently had to fight in GB— against creationnism in countries like Spain, Germany, Netherlands or Portugal, for example… In France, be sure that any attempt to spread such ridiculous and insane ideas would not even have to be met by repression… it would be met with a huge, collective laughter, and the case would be closed before it even started ! !

    Could anybody explain such a strange discrepancy between these different “receptive zones”, please ??

    I tried to figure out, but couldn’t get much far… Thanks.

    • @ “x-bone”

      Quote :

      “But I can’t help wondering about something that bothers me : WHY is it that this “creationnist” bs hysteria happens mainly in anglo-saxon countries ???”

      Fill in the blank :

      Puritanism came from ______________________.

      You get a nanosecond to answer.

      • Well… I get your point.

        But here, you use “puritanism” in the british sense of the term (i.e.: the “Puritans” who set sail on the Mayflower, for instance). But the general acception of the word ‘puritanism’ refers to people who stress the rules of a religion to such extent that it invades their whole daily life with strict obedience, isn’t it ?

        Then, seen that way, many countries other than anglo-saxon ones have had their bit with such trends : think about Calvin in Geneva… Torquemada in Spain… Savonarole in Florence… Catholic faith also generates its fair share of ultra-bigotry ! See all these ‘fervent’ gatherings in Compostella, Lourdes and/or on St-Peter’s piazza in Vatican…

        And yet, Savonarole was ultimately overthrown and burned at the stake, Calvin has been expelled from Geneva, and when he returned, had the biggest difficulties to maintain his presence there…

        So there has been strong puritanistic tendencies outside the anglo-saxon world, but they could never stick around for long… Why ?

        • @ “X-bone”

          Quote :

          “But the general acceptation of the word ‘puritanism’ refers to people who stress the rules of a religion to such extent that it invades their whole daily life with strict obedience, isn’t it ?”

          General acceptation.

          Most commentators at this blog, including yourself, would habitually be adverse to this foreign concept…Risky to adopt it as a strategy for argument. Foggy Group Think. And essentially, you are isolating the word to a 20th century development of interpretation, whereas the effects of English bred Puritanism, if you’ll read its history, has stockpiled and snowballed from century to century, generation to generation.

          Circa 21, 000 at Massachusetts Bay Colony. Between 1630 and 1641. Today, we are confronted with the damage wrought by 16, 000, 000 of their descendants…through various, essentially non-consequential Protestant permutations…A rose is still a rose…Thank you Shakespeare…Or is it Shakspear ?…

          You cannot fully appreciate the deleterious effects of Puritan poison by examining it solely through today’s lenses. That other Western countries have adopted similar rigid orthodox strictures still does not mitigate the essential focus of Puritan expansion and it’s consequential influence on much larger populations.

          We are the direct heir. A dysfunctional byproduct of entrenchment, there but for the grace of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Carl Sagan…go we.

  7. Heads up.

    …Uh…Before my British friends get too exited, I and my secular colleagues here in Huntsville, Alabama, U.S. of A. are instigating and enforcing a systematic removal, expulsion and permanent deportation of ALL the descendants of Puritan stock back to their Mother Homeland.

    Think you’ve had it bad ? Wait until :

    The Arrival.

        • @ “Nitya”

          Quote :

          “When compared to the Catholicism these Protestant religions replaced, they were a big step forward at the time.”

          Are you here in the U.S. ?…The dysfunctional influences of fundamentalist Protestantism have exponentially dumped their bird-droppings all over the U.S., whereas Catholic priests are exiting, and liturgical influence is dropping out at new peak levels.

          More to your point ; I’m loath to appreciate the superficial consequences of the Reformation; both the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution would have come about, regardless what names, cone hats, (or badges!) the disputing orthodoxies would eventually attach to themselves.

          Superstition remains what it is, regardless what church or cathedral sheep will gather.

          • I find it very hard to believe that I’m standing up in defense of any brand of religious nuttery, but I am a Protestant atheist deep down somewhere, so here goes.

            As x-bone commented, it was the Protestant reformation that led to the development of capitalism. Take a look at the histories of the Protestant countries. Until quite recently these countries led the way in prosperity and innovation. This is no accident. True, catholic Europe eventually caught up, but that was only after abandoning their restrictions on lending for profit.

            Secularism eventually infiltrated all western democracies, though I doubt that this would have happened without the Reformation and later Enlightenment.

            If you want to see evidence of the outcomes of each system, cast your eyes to the difference between catholic Mexico and Protestant (in practice) USA! With all it’s flaws, I’m sure the US offers the better alternative.

            This later breed of Protestant extremism is fairly new in the making and seems to stem directly from the US. If it had been left to run its course, ( as in Europe and the antipodes) I think it would have just quietly faded away with a whimper.

      • @ “God fearing Atheist”

        …So tell all the Robin Hood descendants they’ll have to deal with it.

        All 16 million. They’re on their way…

        Good for tourist trade. You can thank us later.

    • james ballard Jun 25, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      …Uh…Before my British friends get too exited, I and my secular colleagues here in Huntsville, Alabama, U.S. of A. are instigating and enforcing a systematic removal, expulsion and permanent deportation of ALL the descendants of Puritan stock back to their Mother Homeland.

      Think you’ve had it bad ? Wait until : – The Arrival.

      We would take a message from the runes of my Viking ancestors, and send you a ship to collect them, but since the disciplinary methods went to pot, they are untrainable, – and the slave market has consequently collapsed! ☺

      • @ “Alan4discussion”

        …Good point. I recognize the kinship, as one of my ancestors, a “Sane” (Scottish name “borrowed” from the Vikings), lends me due and moral license for my recent activities…

        Let’s see… 16 million divided by the total amount of menial jobs on the British market (not to forget Ireland as well)…

        Sounds reasonable to me…We won’t have to re-open the slave market…And we’re giving them back to you, not selling them…No doubt out of our heartfelt generosity.

  8. @ ” Nitya”

    “Protestant atheist”?…Don’t know if I can top that one !… :)

    Adam Smith and David Hume, followed by the Industrial Revolution, form the immediate bedrock basis of modern Capitalism. The fact that “Protestants” inhabited the same British cradle of 18th century Enlightenment does not translate that Capitalism is a direct heir of Protestantism. Hume cannot really be penned down to either orthodoxy as he was more the skeptic of both. Smith is equally problematic, but its reasonably clear he dismissed notions of a personal god. Both were friends and were often criticized for their lack of dogmatic adherence to the established Church of Scotland orthodoxy. What preceded them amounted to mercantilism and agrarian capitalism…Barter for profit existed over 2000 years ago, long before “Protestantism”.

    So no, we can’t credit “capitalism” to Protestantism.

    Quote :

    “This later breed of Protestant extremism is fairly new in the making and seems to stem directly from the US. If it had been left to run its course, ( as in Europe and the antipodes) I think it would have just quietly faded away with a whimper.”

    Yep. I have little doubt about appearances. There was plenty of fanaticism in the early part of the 20th century. Self-appointed dogmatic overlords who insinuated and bullied their way into the cultural and entertainment ethos. Today the demographics of fundamentalism are better reported, better organized and louder. And of course, the rise of the religio-crazies immediately correlates to the systematic rejection of the sciences.

    But the prime ancestral root of ALL the U.S. religious nut-cases is…??…

    I’ll let you fill in the blank : ________________________ .

Leave a Reply