I’m informed by a person on the ground that the British government is in a fix about this because the National Curriculum is simply a minimum standard. In other words, it is there to make sure all children get a basic education; it’s purpose is not to ban things.
Ministers to ban creationist teaching aids in science lessons
Ã‚Â· Schools will be told not to use special pack
Ã‚Â· Intelligent design group asks for meeting
James Randerson, science correspondent
Thursday December 7, 2006
The government is to write to schools telling them that controversial teaching materials promoting creationism should not be used in science lessons.
The packs include DVDs and written materials promoting intelligent design, a creationist alternative to Darwinism, that were sent to every school in the country by the privately-funded group Truth in Science. Advocates of the theory argue that some features of the universe and nature are so complex that they must have been designed by a higher intelligence. Last week, the Guardian revealed that 59 schools had told Truth in Science the materials were a “useful classroom resource”.
The government has already stated that the Truth in Science materials should not be used in science lessons. On November 1, the education minister, Jim Knight, wrote: “Neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories and they are not included in the science curriculum. The Truth in Science information pack is therefore not an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum.” The Department for Education said it was working with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the public body that oversees the national curriculum, to communicate this message directly to schools.
But Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrats’ science spokesman, said: “I’m amazed that they have found it so difficult and it has taken so long.” He feared that some teachers would use the packs to promote intelligent design as a belief or that it would be presented as a valid scientific theory.
“[Pupils] are somehow being told these agendas are alternative ways of looking at things. They are not at all,” the Nobel prizewinner and prime mover in the Human Genome Project, John Sulston, said at a lecture last week at the British Museum. “One is science – a rational thought process which will carry us forward into the indefinite future. The other is a cop-out and they should not be juxtaposed in science lessons.”
The teachers’ manual accompanying the DVDs says that the curriculum states that pupils should be taught about different ways of interpreting empirical evidence. “An essential part of this is for pupils to understand the nature and causes of scientific controversy. A good example of this, specified by the national curriculum, is Darwin’s theory of evolution.”
Andy McIntosh, a professor of thermodynamics at the University of Leeds and a member of the Truth in Science board, has written to request a meeting with ministers to discuss the advice the department is planning to send out to schools.
Liberal Democrat MP Phil Willis, who chairs the parliamentary science and technology committee, said it was a good opportunity for the department to “send out a very clear directive to say that these materials should not be used within any national science curriculum lesson”.