We have news from Scotland where, as you know, the government has been considering a petition of the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) to ban teaching creationism in government school science classes. Specifically, they want Education Secretary Mike Russell to issue guidance to publicly-funded schools and colleges to prevent the teaching of creationism and related doctrines as viable alternatives to established science.
Today we have news of the result. The HeraldScotland of Cambuslang, just outside Glasgow, has this story: Schools creationism ban rejected by Scottish Government. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
The Scottish Secular Society (SSS) criticised the response to its petition with the Scottish Parliament calling for new government guidance on the issue in publicly funded schools. The society believes schools should not be allowed to present the belief that the universe originates from acts of divine creation as a viable alternative to established science. The SSS petition was lodged after it emerged members of a US pro-creationist religious sect had been working as classroom assistants at a primary school in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire.
We wrote about that situation in East Kilbride last year — see Creationism in Scotland — Update. Back to the news story:
Tim Simons, Head of Curriculum Unit at the Scottish Government’s Learning Directorate, has written to the parliament’s petitions committee that there are no plans to introduce ban guidance called for by the SSS. Mr Simmons said: “I can (therefore) confirm that there are no plans to issue guidance to schools or education authorities to prevent the presentation of creationism, intelligent design or similar doctrines by teachers or school visitors. The evidence available suggests that guidance on these matters is unnecessary.”
Yeah, unnecessary. One should be wary of any government agency that calls itself the Learning Directorate. He also said:
: “I can confirm that there are a number of policies and safeguards in place to ensure that children and young people receive a broad and balanced general education. Safeguards include; school managers having oversight of curriculum planning and resources; local authorities with robust complaints procedures, independent school inspections and the development of curriculum materials through a collegiate approach that provides for early identification of any inappropriate material.”
Everything’s under control in Scotland. No worries! Let’s read on:
The SSS said it is “deeply disappointed by the Scottish Government’s response to evidence presented to the Public Petitions Committee”. Spencer Fildes, Chair of the SSS responded to the submission: “The Scottish Government has responded with what they claim are workable ‘safeguards’ that are already in place, yet we have presented clear evidence to the contrary.”
One last excerpt:
Professor Paul Braterman, co-petitioner, said: “This language blurs the crucial distinction, built into the wording of our own petition, between learning about creationist worldviews, and being taught that such worldviews are tenable. The SSS fear this will bring Scottish education into disrepute.”
So there you are, lads and lassies. Will the resulting drool engulf Scotland? Egad — there’s nothing worse than drool-soaked haggis. We’ll have to wait for further developments.
We note, however, that this is a good lesson about centralized government control of education (or anything else). One can never be certain that the right people will be running things — but one can always be certain that the wrong people will be grasping for control. Decentralization is sloppy, but it has its virtues.
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