learning

Government changes Free School model funding agreement to ban creationist schools

Government changes Free School model funding agreement to ban creationist schools

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed a new revision of the model funding agreement for Free Schools by the Government in order to preclude ‘the teaching, as an evidence-based view or theory, of any view or theory that is contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations.’ This highly significant change has been made in order to ban creationism from being taught in Free Schools, and prevent creationist groups from opening schools. The change follows the BHA coordinating the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign, which called for this precise change.

In September, the BHA came together with thirty leading scientists and science educators including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins and Professor Michael Reiss, and five national organisations to launch ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’, which called on the government to introduce statutory guidance against the teaching of creationism and garnered significant press coverage. The BHA also launched a government e-petition making the same call, which has now garnered over 20,000 signatures.

In subsequent written correspondence with civil servants, the BHA stated that ‘Our concern is for the government to make absolutely clear that there is no chance it will ever accept [creationist Free School] bids, or allow any state-funded school to teach creationism as science, anywhere in the curriculum, and this is only possible through a change in the law… we would support any adjustment to the model funding agreement to add a statement [to this effect]… Could we request that the next time the [Free School] model funding agreement is reviewed, our desire for this point’s inclusion is considered?’

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We congratulate the government for taking this significant step to prevent creationist Free Schools. There is still further work to be done to ensure that all schools, not just Free Schools, are prevented from teaching creationism, to include evolution in the primary National Curriculum, and to ensure evolution’s teaching in all schools. We look forward to working with the government and all those who care about rational and evidence based education to achieve these additional changes.’

Top home-school texts dismiss Darwin

Top home-school texts dismiss Darwin

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Home-school mom Susan Mule wishes she hadn’t taken a friend’s advice and tried a textbook from a popular Christian publisher for her 10-year-old’s biology lessons.Mule’s precocious daughter Elizabeth excels at science and has been studying tarantulas since she was 5. But she watched Elizabeth’s excitement turn to confusion when they reached the evolution section of the book from Apologia Educational Ministries, which disputed Charles Darwin’s theory.

“I thought she was going to have a coronary,” Mule said of her daughter, who is now 16 and taking college courses in Houston. “She’s like, ‘This is not true!'”

Christian-based materials dominate a growing home-school education market that encompasses more than 1.5 million students in the U.S. And for most home-school parents, a Bible-based version of the Earth’s creation is exactly what they want. Federal statistics from 2007 show 83 percent of home-schooling parents want to give their children “religious or moral instruction.””The majority of home-schoolers self-identify as evangelical Christians,” said Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the Home School Legal Defense Association. “Most home-schoolers will definitely have a sort of creationist component to their home-school program.”

Those who don’t, however, often feel isolated and frustrated from trying to find a textbook that fits their beliefs.

Two of the best-selling biology textbooks stack the deck against evolution, said some science educators who reviewed sections of the books at the request of The Associated Press.

“I feel fairly strongly about this. These books are promulgating lies to kids,” said Jerry Coyne, an ecology and evolution professor at the University of Chicago.

‘History of Life’
The textbook publishers defend their books as well-rounded lessons on evolution and its shortcomings. One of the books doesn’t attempt to mask disdain for Darwin and evolutionary science.

“Those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling,” says the introduction to “Biology: Third Edition” from Bob Jones University Press. “This book was not written for them.”

The textbook delivers a religious ultimatum to young readers and parents, warning in its “History of Life” chapter that a “Christian worldview … is the only correct view of reality; anyone who rejects it will not only fail to reach heaven but also fail to see the world as it truly is.”

When the AP asked about that passage, university spokesman Brian Scoles said the sentence made it into the book because of an editing error and will be removed from future editions.

The size of the business of home-school texts isn’t clear because the textbook industry is fragmented and privately held publishers don’t give out sales numbers. Slatter said home-school material sales reach about $1 billion annually in the U.S.

Publishers are well aware of the market, said Jay Wile, a former chemistry professor in Indianapolis who helped launch the Apologia curriculum in the early 1990s.

“If I’m planning to write a curriculum, and I want to write it in a way that will appeal to home-schoolers, I’m going to at least find out what my demographic is,” Wile said.

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Thanks to JT Hundley for the link.

Judge refuses to let pupils drop religion

Judge refuses to let pupils drop religion

Christian parents who objected to their children being taught about other religions in a mandatory new Quebec school course have suffered a serious setback with a ruling this week that the teachings do not infringe their religious freedoms.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-Guy Dubois dismissed a bid by parents in Drummondville, Que., who said the course on ethics and religious culture introduced across the province last year was undermining their efforts to instill Christian faith in their children. “In light of all the evidence presented, the court does not see how the … course limits the plaintiff’s freedom of conscience and of religion for the children when it provides an overall presentation of various religions without obliging the children to adhere to them,” Judge Dubois wrote.

The course was controversial even before instruction began last September. During the year there were protest marches in some cities, and about 1,700 parents asked that their children be exempted from attending the class. All such requests were refused.

The course’s introduction was the final step in the secularization of Quebec schooling that began with a 1997 constitutional amendment replacing denominational school boards with linguistic ones.

As of last year, parents no longer had the right to choose between courses in Catholic, Protestant or moral instruction. The new curriculum covers a broad range of world religions, with particular emphasis on Quebec’s religious heritage — Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism and aboriginal spirituality. It is taught from Grade 1 through Grade 11.

The course’s scope was too broad for the parents in the Drummondville case, who cannot be named because their two minor children are involved. During the trial, the children’s mother testified that she did not see why her seven-year-old son needs to learn about Islam when he is still forming his own Catholic spirituality. “It’s very confusing,” she said.

In his ruling, Judge Dubois cited a Catholic theologian who testified that religious instruction is primarily the responsibility of parents, not schools. He added that there is a commitment on the part of the Catholic church to understand other religions.

The Quebec government, which intervened in the case in support of the Des Chenes school board, argued that the course was objective and in no way limited parents’ ability to pass their religious beliefs on to their children. Teaching children about other religions is a way to promote “equality, respect and tolerance in the Quebec school system,” it said.

Sebastien Lebel-Grenier, a law professor at Universite de Sherbrooke, said he is not surprised that the new course survived a challenge under the Charter of Rights.

“What parents were demanding was the right to ignorance, the right to protect their children from being exposed to the existence of other religions,” he said. “This right to ignorance is certainly not protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Freedom of religion does not protect the right not to know what is going on in our universe.” He said the course is aimed not at instilling religious values but at trying “to explain to these children the diversity in which we now live in Quebec.”

Richard Decarie, spokesman for a coalition opposed to the course, said the decision is a disappointment. He believes there are grounds for an appeal, but is not sure the parents involved can afford more legal expenses. He said they have already spent close to $100,000 fighting the case.

“The course shouldn’t be compulsory, because it changes completely how parents keep their moral authority over the education of their children,” said Mr. Decarie, of the Coalition for Freedom in Education.