Great. I'm Paying People to Fuck Up Children's Lives.
A few days ago, a reader sent me a link to this Channel Four report. It’s a five minute video, so here it is:
There are some scary quotes in there, but the stats are worse. From their own survey, 80% of 50 Muslim, Jewish and 'accelerated Christian education' schools taught Creationism as fact and ignore evolution. Of those, five were state-funded schools. That's 74% of 19 Jewish schools, 100% of 21 Evangelical schools and 50% of 10 Islamic schools. None of these schools is breaking a law*, although of course Paul Kelley would have been had he been reckless enough to educate in a secular way. The law, as has been mentioned, is an ass. Personally, I think the best argument for teaching evolution in schools is that it's the only way I know that you can make biology into a passably interesting subject. I for one always found it crushingly dull -- because it was mostly a list of information presented in a "here's what happens; don't ask why, just learn it" kind of a way. Throw in evolution and you can explain why these things happen. You can talk about DNA and all the weird ways genes try to get copied. You can tie biology in to all kinds of other subjects much more effectively. I'm sure you can teach vast tracts of biology without mentioning genes or evolution, but I defy you to make it interesting. That aside, the best reason I know of not to teach Creationism is simply that it's patently false. Of course, Creationists won't accept that, so a better argument is that there is no evidence to support it (because it's so false). The only argument in favour is the whole stupid "parents' rights" thing. And I do accept that parents have a right to educate their children in whatever way they want -- but I think they should be made to look up the word "educate" before they start paying someone to preach at them, because filling impressionable young minds with damaging lies to promote an ideology is nothing more or less than exploitation -- and it's not even for personal gain: we're talking about exploitation for the sake of an abstract concept. And I think it's utterly abhorrent that the government would fund this. I blame the parents for this. They should be outraged if their kids are being taught such bullshit, and they should get something done. The government are also in the wrong, of course, but you can hardly expect the government to act if the people don't care. (You know, because the government only ever does what the people want.) People listen to parents. God knows why. I'm not against the ides of schools being different and parents having choice. I'm not against the idea that some of those differences might be based on a religion -- a school aimed at Muslims that makes sure the textbooks don't have illustrations in articles about Mohammed, or a school aimed at Jews that only serves kosher food, that's fine. And hopefully the genuine followers of those religions would be able to get places in those schools, because since all schools would be required to teach the same curriculum non-religious parents presumably would just pick the nearest school, or the one the kid's friends were going to. The moment you let them teach different things then the idea of "choice" becomes an illusion: when you're presented with one good school and one bad school, you don't have a choice. Everyone with a brain will try to get into the good school and then you're back to pot luck (or selection, if it's a faith school). It's just the same as the ridiculous claim made by the Department of Health the other day, that "operation success rates help patients choose treatment". Their theory is that by publishing statistics on survival rates at different hospitals, they give patients a choice. No, you don't. You just make life difficult for everyone, and worry people who can't get into the best one. The stats should be public, certainly, but not for that reason. I think that all schools and hospitals should be good enough that you don't care which one you use, and I think that if they're not then you should fix it rather than shifting the onus onto patients and parents to find an acceptable one. More to the point, if it's legal to teach Creationism, that must mean there is no requirement for schools to teach facts that are true. But of course, I don't get a say. Because I don't live in Normanton. If I did, I'd be allowed to vote against Ed Balls' continuing reign of lunacy over the Department of Children, Schools, Families and Kittens, or whatever they're calling Education now. (Honestly, the system of government we have here is utterly mad if you look into it for any length of time.)
* According to the video, anyway. My understanding is that the teaching of evolution is compulsory in publicly funded schools, but I don't know where I can find an authoritative source of information.