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Jerry Coyne on the war on math, science, in New Zealand – and falling scores

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The Woke, as it happens, are not friends of science:

Why should we care about the performance of New Zealand’s primary- and secondary-school students, and what’s happening with it over time? For me, it’s the science that’s important, but science, reading, and math show the same trend over the last fifteen years. Despite a rise in spending per pupil over the last 25 years, performance in these three areas in New Zealand has declined, both absolutely and in comparison to the countries like England, Australia, the U.S., Canada, and Singapore—countries regarded as educational competitors with (and comparable to) New Zealand.

Why does this matter? For science, at least, as I’ve written repeatedly, there’s a big-time initiative in New Zealand to have mātauranga Māori, or Māori “ways of knowing”, taught as coequal to modern science in the science classroom. This initiative, propelled by the desire to buttress an oppressed minority (the native Māori), has good intentions behind it—to get more Māori interested in science—but is a practical disaster. That’s because mātauranga Māori is not only “traditional practical knowledge” (e.g., navigation, growing crops, catching fish), which can be considered “science construed broadly” (but do you need to teach this in science class?) but, worse, a mixture of legends, myths, morality, and philosophy, some of which is palpably false. Much of it is simply not science as the modern world knows it.

Jerry Coyne, “Performance of New Zealand students in math, science, and reading falls dramatically in last two decades” at Why Evolution Is True (December 27, 2021)

Darwinian evolutionary biologist Coyne doesn’t dispute teaching Indigenous beliefs in a cultural class. But he may be at a major disadvantage because – if many years of his blogging are any guide – he wants science taught as a branch of naturalist atheism. Thus, the question arises, why shouldn’t we teach naturalist atheism too as an outcropping of Western culture?

We will need a philosophy of science teaching that is focused on followng theevidence wherever it leads and is not so wholly wedded to one point of view.

You may also wish to read: Maori Creationism Is Okay In New Zealand Schools; Objectors Could Be Booted From NZ’s Royal Society.

3 Replies to “Jerry Coyne on the war on math, science, in New Zealand – and falling scores

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Jesus, what a fucking idiot.

    traditional practical knowledge” (e.g., navigation, growing crops, catching fish), which can be considered “science construed broadly” (but do you need to teach this in science class?)

    YES. YES. YES. THESE ARE THE ONLY THINGS WE SHOULD BE TEACHING. Science class should START AND END with practical knowledge, both traditional and modern. Navigation and growing crops and catching fish have been the source and motive of Western knowledge as well as Maori knowledge.

    You can teach all of science and math in a course on practical navigation. Geometry, astronomy, structural engineering, food preservation, hydrodynamics, mechanics of oars and rudders and engines, communication for ship-to-shore semaphores, electronics for ship-to-shore radio and GPS…..

  2. 2
    Bob O'H says:

    You can teach all of science and math in a course on practical navigation.

    The science behind plant breeding?

  3. 3
    tm19 says:

    Happen to have a front row seat on this. Coyne is right to highlight the work of the New Zealand Initiative. He repeats some of their key findings, and ends “Teaching matauranga Maori in science class as a ‘way of knowing’ coequal to modern science is a recipe for disaster.”

    The trouble is, the rot has been spreading for decades, and the collapse has already happened. It didn’t start with wokism. It started with a lack of academic rigour for trainee teachers, bad research methodology, lack of accountability, political and union interference, etc. This has been true for a lot of “progressive” Western democracies over the same period, including the U.S. (I have a foot in both countries).

    As the NZI points out, the basic underlying problem in the last 20+ years has been the utter takeover of “child-centred orthodoxy.” Coyne quotes the NZI to that effect, and blows on by to make his point about the alternative ways-of-knowing.

    No, the rot is to blame for the collapse, not the cultural vandals who have been emboldened by the current one-party, far-left state to do what they do best, namely, to ruin things for everyone else.

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