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Creationism or Theology Creep into Wales Educational Curricula

2023-01-03

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/09/17

According to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), and the BBC (2019a), Wales has been proposing a new curriculum at the national level with some of the United Kingdom’s leading researchers and teachers disapproving on one level of it.

The teaching curriculum equates to the teaching of evolution with the possibility of teaching creationism or a religious view within Wales. The researchers and teachers wrote a letter calling for an explicit ban on the teaching of creationism — a theological or religious worldview posed as a scientific one (Humanists UK, 2019a; Humanists UK, 2019b).

Richard Dawkins, Steve Jones, and Alice Roberts, and others, have called against this proposed curriculum and against the possibility of teaching creationism in the science classroom (BBC News, 2019a).

The BBC (2019b) also has been reporting on this particular development of the Wales curriculum for several months with an analysis and presentation of the reforms arising out of “concerns about standards and poor results in international Pisa tests and ministers will hope it will pay dividends in better results too.”

The curriculum sets out general and not detailed plans as to the framework for the new educational curricula in Wales, which separates into Areas of Learning and Experience (AoLEs) with narrow subjects tossed in favour of the six AoLEs (Ibid.).

BBC stated, “At the moment school is divided up into Foundation Phase (ages three to seven) and then ‘key stages.’ That will change to ‘progression steps’ at ages five, eight, 11, 14 and 16, which will set out broad expectations for young people at those different stages” (Ibid.).

As reported (BBC News, 2019a), on the other hand, Kathy Riddick, the Wales Humanists coordinator, noted how there was not blatant teaching of creationism insofar as she knew about it.

However, Professor Dylan William, emeritus professor of educational assessment at University College London, stated, “Wales is taking a gamble. I don’t think anyone knows how it is going to play out. There are too many variables. I think the chances of success are anything from 10%-90%. There’s a reasonable chance that this could be successful if the right things are done. And there’s a really good chance that the political processes, and changes in government, and changes in administration and changes in funding could derail the entire thing and the whole thing is a disaster” (BBC News, 2019c).

The letter spoke to the non-explicit statement about the presentation of creationism and other pseudoscience into the curricula with no prohibition, while, at the same time, evolutionary theory gets only one mention.

Humanists UK proposed a petition with several thousand signers at this time (2019a). This, as noted by the numbers of signers in a short period of time, represents the import or salience to the population of humanists and supporters of the proper teaching in the science curriculum of science rather than theological views to citizens of the United Kingdom. I signed it (Ibid.). Several prominent scientists signed onto the petition and the letter (Humanists UK, 2019b), which, in full, states:

‘As scientists and educators we believe that good science teaching is vital to the education and development of all children, wherever they live in the UK. We note the Welsh Government is currently consulting on a new national curriculum that will drastically overhaul education in Wales, including science education. The new Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE) doesn’t explicitly prohibit presenting creationism and other pseudoscientific theories as evidence-based, and evolution is only mentioned once (and only at secondary level at that).

‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. It is a fundamental concept that describes and explains the development of the diversity of life on the planet. Pupils should be introduced to it early — certainly at primary level — as it underpins so much else. What’s more, without an explicit ban on teaching creationism, intelligent design, and other pseudoscientific theories as evidence-based, such teaching may begin to creep into the school curriculum, when it is vital children in Wales are not exposed to pseudoscientific doctrines masquerading as science.

‘State schools in England, including primary schools, are already required to teach evolution ‘as a comprehensive, coherent, and extensively evidenced theory’, and ‘must not allow any view or theory to be taught as evidence-based if it is contrary to scientific or historical evidence or explanations’. We urge the Welsh Government to introduce the same requirements in Wales.’

The long-term impacts could be grievous for the economic and cultural health ofthe Welsh with this curriculum. As Bethany Lewis writes, this remains a difficult process for the progress of science with the encroachment of religion and theology, and religious scriptural interpretation, into the science classroom and the eventual economic and cultural impacts of the United Kingdom with a less-than-appropriately prepared, or ill-prepared, student body who wish to pursue biological sciences or medical sciences in postsecondary education (2019).

Nonetheless, this is a question for the science curriculum designers and Welsh citizens to decide and enforce for themselves democratically with, hopefully, the idea getting through that science does not comprise a democratic process but an empirical one with evolution via natural selection, not creationism, as the foundation stone to all life sciences.

Appendix I: Prominent Signatories

Organisations:

Shaun Reason, Chief Executive, Association for Science Education (ASE)
Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive, British Science Association
Dr Daniel Rathbone, Assistant Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CASE)
Simon Barrow, Director, Ekklesia
Kathy Riddick, Wales Humanists

Individuals:

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE FRS FinstP
Dr Iolo ap Gwyn FRMS
Professor Peter Atkins
Sir David Attenborough OM CH CVO CBE FRS FLS FZS FSA FRSGS
Dr Susan Blackmore
Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore FBA
Professor Sir Tom Blundell FRS FRSC FMedSci MAE
Professor Paul Braterman
Dr Helena Cronin
Marianne Cutler, Director, Curriculum Innovation, ASE
Dr Helen Czerski
Professor Richard Dawkins FRS FRSL
Professor Athene Donald DBE FRS
Professor Robin Dunbar FBA FRAI
Professor Sir Anthony Epstein CBE FRS FMedSci
Dr Dylan Evans
Dr Diana Fleischman
Professor Chris French CPsychol FBPsS FRSA
Professor Dame Anne Glover DBE FRS FRSE FASM FRSGS
Professor Janice Griffiths CSciTeach, Co-chair, ASE
Dr Julian Huppert FRSC
Professor Laurence D Hurst FMedSci FRS, Director of the Milner Centre for Evolution and President of the Genetics Society
Professor Saiful Islam FRSC
Professor Steve Jones FRS
Professor Armand Leroi
Professor Pat McKeown OBE FREng
Richard Needham CSciTeach, Chair of Trustees, ASE
Professor Mark Pallen
Simon Quinnell, Chair-elect, ASE
Reverend Professor Michael Reiss FRSB FRSA AcSS
Viscount Matt Ridley DL FRSL FMedSci
Professor Alice Roberts
Professor Adam Rutherford
Angela Saini
Alom Shaha
Dr Simon Singh MBE
Professor Fred Spoor
Dr Geertje van Keulen
Mary Whitehouse CSciTeach
Dr James Williams CSciTeach FRSB FLS
Professor Lewis Wolpert CBE FRS FRSL FMedSci

References

BBC News. (2019d, June 19). New school curriculum ‘gamble’ for Wales says expert. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-48679328.

BBC News. (2019b, April 30). Q&A: Draft school curriculum for Wales. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-48098670.

BBC News. (2019c, June 19). Q&A: Wales’ new curriculum. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-48677436.

BBC News. (2019a, September 5). Scientists want creationism teaching ban in Welsh schools. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-49579519.

Humanists UK. (2019a). Tell the Welsh Government: Teach evolution, not creationism!. Retrieved from https://humanism.org.uk/what-you-can-do-to-help/teach-evolution-not-creationism/.

Humanists UK. (2019b, September 5). UK’s top scientists tell the Welsh Government: ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’. Retrieved from https://humanism.org.uk/2019/09/05/uks-top-scientists-tell-the-welsh-government-teach-evolution-not-creationism/.

Lewis, B. (2019, April 30). Education: Draft school curriculum for Wales published. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-48094118.

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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