Schools are for learning, not for the propagation of fundamentalist religious doctrines. If people want their kids to learn about creationism, they should teach them about it at home or in their churches, rather than demanding that it be taught in our public schools.

UK Bans the Teaching of Creationism in All Public Schools

In a major victory for science (and students) across the United Kingdom, the government has officially banned the teaching of creationism in the classroom in all existing and future academies and free schools.

The rule was added as a clause in the UK’s education requirements for what schools must teach in order to receive government funding. The new rule states that there is to be a,

“…requirement for every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in any case prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school.”

Essentially, the government is telling school administrators to knock it off with the creationism, because their students are entitled to a “broad and balanced” education that doesn’t involve learning pseudoscience as scientific fact. If the schools violate that order, they risk losing their funding.

For those of us living across the pond, “academies” are what Americans might call charter schools. “Free schools,” are a relatively new kind of school (only instituted in 2010) which act as non-profit, independent, but state-funded schools that aren’t in the local school systems and must adhere to the School Admissions Code. In effect, these schools give anyone the ability to set up their very own school and begin taking students as long as they adhere to certain educational standards. One of those standards up for debate was whether or not these schools could teach creationism as science.

In the United States, charter schools are given a wide latitude about what they can teach their students. Despite being government-funded, these schools often teach religious ideology as fact. Consequently, many religious parents enroll their kids into charter schools because they want to avoid a secular education. In 2012, Mother Jones launched an investigation into what Louisiana charter schools were teaching their students and found that science and history textbooks were rife with references to dinosaurs hanging out with early humans, climate change being a conspiracy by “environmentalists” to destroy America’s economy, and a chapter looking at signs that the anti-Christ walks the Earth today – all while receiving millions of dollars in state and federal funding.

Perhaps learning from the United States’ example, the UK appears to be putting its foot down and telling schools to avoid creationism in the classroom. The new requirements are clear: academies (even religious ones) must ensure “pupils are taught about the theory of evolution, and prevent academy trusts from teaching ‘creationism’ as scientific fact.”

And just to ensure that administrators know exactly what they mean, the clause goes on to define creationism explicitly (while at the same time pointing out that creationism isn’t even respected among most religious groups):

[A]ny doctrine or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth and therefore rejects the scientific theory of evolution. The parties acknowledge that creationism, in this sense, is rejected by most mainstream churches and religious traditions, including the major providers of state funded schools such as the [Anglican] [Catholic] Churches, as well as the scientific community. It does not accord with the scientific consensus or the very large body of established scientific evidence; nor does it accurately and consistently employ the scientific method, and as such it should not be presented to pupils at the Academy as a scientific theory.

That isn’t to say that the new rule was easy to achieve. Secularist campaigns had lobbied the government hard for the last several years in order to get creationism out of their schools and they won in small steps.

As Politics explains:

The move is the culmination of a long campaign by secularists, who first succeeded in getting creationism banned from all future free schools, then future stand-alone academies and then finally all future multi-academy trusts.

Of course, the work is never done and the UK isn’t perfect. The British Humanist Association points out that the state still funds a large number of creationist nurseries (preschools) and doesn’t do a good job of checking up on private creationist schools to ensure fidelity. However, progress has been pointed firmly in the right direction and that’s a refreshing sign.

The United States on the other hand…