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Creationists coming! Think of the children!

There has been an outbreak of panic among some local atheists and freethinkers over the following headline in the papers:

Intelligent design to be taught in Queensland schools under national curriculum

It would indeed be a cause for alarm if it were true, but like so many headlines these days it doesn't reflect reality, or even the content of the article below it. The fact is that there is currently a process underway to develop a nation-wide curriculum for the teaching of certain subjects in schools to replace the separate schemes used in the various states. This is considered a good idea by some, who recognise that different academic standards in different places cause problems. Of course it is being opposed by people who see any form of centralism as a precursor to communism, and I don't doubt that it is being opposed by homeschoolers simply because anything from the gubmnt is a form of interference.

The process of developing the national curriculum is still a work-in-progress, and I regularly see advertisements on the television asking for submissions. The "teaching creationism" alluded to in the headline is a suggestion that the supposed debate about origins be used in history classes as an example of a controversy, one which can be settled by rational discussion of the facts. Nobody objects to national socialism being discussed as a historical concept, and I don't think that even the most rabid science supporters would object to the theory of an Earth-centred universe being mentioned in the history of science. Talking about them won't make kids into Nazis or Galileo persecutors, and might even encourage them to think more critically about what they hear and read. You can see the newspaper article here.

For those who think that there might be a toehold for creationism in schools already just because the danger hasn't been recognised, here is an official notice from the NSW Board of Studies to science teachers, issued in June 2009:

Official Notice - Advice to Teachers of Science

BOS 17/09

In developing the NSW Science curriculum, the Board of Studies undertook extensive consultation with experts in the field to ensure that content, including that relating to evolution, would be consistent with accepted scientific knowledge and understanding.

The Board wishes to remind teachers that Creationism and Intelligent Design are not part of the Board’s Science syllabuses. If taught as part of any school-based program, it must be clear to students that Creationism and Intelligent Design:

  1. are not scientific, nor evidence-based
  2. will not be included in any task that forms part of the assessment of student achievement for the award of the School Certificate or Higher School Certificate
  3. will not be tested in any School Certificate or Higher School Certificate examination and will not be relevant to any response to School Certificate or Higher School Certificate questions.

In the 2009 Biology paper for the NSW Higher School Certificate the question on evolution wasn't compulsory, but it was worth 25% of the marks if attempted and there doesn't appear to be any section of it where the answer "God did it" would be marked correct. I am not too worried about creationism getting into science classes within the near (or even far) future, but as Thomas Jefferson didn't say (it was John Curran): "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance".

This article was published on the Yahoo! 7 News Blog on June 7, 2010
Yahoo! 7 News

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