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The battle for evolution in Scottish schools

Tomorrow, the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee will be hearing from members of the British Centre for Science Education (BCSE) and Scottish Secular Society (SSS). Earlier this year, the SSS started a petition urging the Scottish government issue guidance on the teaching of creationism in schools. In England and Wales, there is clear guidance that creationism and Intelligent Design are not valid scientific alternatives to the theory of evolution, and should not be taught as such. In Scotland, there is no equivalent document.

This is a problem, because as we’ve previously seen, there have been significant inroads by creationists in some Scottish schools. Fortunately in that case, there was a decisive win for science. But what that case showed was that creationism genuinely is an issue in Scotland, and it will continue to be so without clear guidance. So you might think that the SSS petition, backed by three Nobel prize winners, would be uncontroversial.

Cart pulled by dinosaur

In case you’d forgotten, this picture of a dinosaur working as a beast of burden was included in creationist material distributed in a Scottish school in 2013.

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Is this moral?

Written by ACE's Vice President and head of curriculum development.

Written by ACE’s Vice President and head of curriculum development.

Children matriculate into Christian school in dire need of spiritual programing [sic] of their minds to accept and desire the things of Christ. Conditioning, according to Philippians 4:8 (whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure. . . .) breaks down secular programed [sic] ideas, thoughts, and habits alien to Scripture. Little by little, day after day in the temple, things of God hammer away at the worldliness packed into the child’s treasure chest of experiences. The carnal nature of children necessitates that adults sometimes do more than just nudge their thinking toward godliness. This fact forms a basis for the use of demerits, detentions, corporal correction, discipline committees, corrective research, etc.

Corrective research?? 

Modern society constantly bombards his mind with negative character drains, things that take his focus off eternity.  Restricting secular access to his mind and conditioning with Scriptural principles breaks down the child’s carnal resistance against God, removing previously (or currently) accepted ideas, values, notions, and concepts. Little by little things of God begin to hammer away at the child’s resisting nature.  At first, the child (especially teenagers) may reject godly standards and principles – yet gradually, negative mental resistance gives way. The Holy Spirit’s first knock at their heart’s door is met by a resounding “no!” The second knock is heard with less offense and resistance; “I will try it but I won’t like it.” Finally, the grace of God wins its way into the child’s heart, bringing the child into conformity with those principles which enable him to succeed in a Christian ministry.

Ronald E. Johnson, Under Tutors & Governors, (c) 1980 Accelerated Christian Education

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Parents Against Creationism – Two Big Victories in One Scottish Town

This is a guest post by Paul Braterman, Professor Emeritus, University of North Texas and Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Chemistry, University of Glasgow. Paul is a leading member of the British Centre for Science Education and enemy of creationism wherever it arises, and the author of From Stars to Stalagmites. He was the one who sent me the photos for my recent discussion of creationism in a Scottish primary school. Here, he expands on that information to reveal the extent of creationist influence in Scottish education. He begins with an appeal for assistance:

Please help. British Centre for Science Education are collecting evidence of creationist activity in UK education, and Scottish Secular Society of this and other abuses of religious privilege in education in Scotland. Please let me know, in confidence, of any recent specific examples you know of personally. Email psbraterman [at] yahoo [dot] com.

The past few weeks have seen two victories against creationism in the Scottish town of East Kilbride. Both are to be celebrated, but neither should have been necessary, and both represent battles that will need to be fought again and again, until there are major structural changes in how education is administered in Scotland. One has attracted attention at both local (BBC and tabloid and broadsheet newspapers) and UK national (Telegraph) level. The other one has taken place unannounced and almost unnoticed. But both are real, and both the result of publicity.

The creationist textbook distributed to children in East Kilbride

The creationist textbook distributed to children in East Kilbride

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Creating a fundamentalist bubble

In my first ever blog post, I wrote that the blog existed to expose the activities of Accelerated Christian Education. I now think that “expose” was the wrong verb. It implies that ACE is in some way underhanded about what it does. ACE is actually completely blatant about its educational philosophy, and their leaders’ own writing on the subject of education is far more damning than anything I could write on the subject.

What ACE and other fundamentalist curricula are, however, is mostly invisible to the general public. As Paul F. Parsons explains, there’s a reason for that.

Fundamentalist schools, in particular, operate in secrecy. This is done not only to discourage the prying of government agencies but to avoid the eyeing of a suspicious public.

So here’s what ACE says it exists for in its own words. After I spoke to Reading Skeptics in the Pub about ACE, one teacher came up to me, pointed to an ACE book and said “This has absolutely nothing to do with learning. You need to shine a big spotlight on this.”

Here’s the spotlight. In this excerpt, you’ll see the intense milieu control that ACE deliberately exerts over children. They don’t just intend to inculcate the fundamentalist worldview; they don’t want children to have any idea about any alternatives.

[There’s a chance that I’ll get asked to take this down because it is copyrighted material. The way I see it, it’s all available for free online from ACE, so I’m not costing them any money, and trust me, I have no desire to pass this off as my own work. The following text is an excerpt from The Great Commandment and the Great Commission: God’s mandate for Christian education, (C) 1999 (2013 revision) Accelerated Christian Education, available at]

Christian education is not an alternative. It is not a luxury. It is not even just a good idea. It is the law of God. It is the law that He gave to our forefathers, and it is the same law that He now gives to us. It is the GREAT COMMANDMENT…

Cease to Hear the Instruction . . . !

Notice the phrase in Proverbs 22:6 that states

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

That is inclusive of everything God has considered important enough to put in His Word. It includes all the commandments, statutes, and judgments of the Lord in both the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, according to Proverbs 19:27, it also excludes anything that is not consistent with God’s Word.

Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.

Not only is the child to be taught all the principles of Scripture, but he is to be shielded from anything contrary to the way in which he should go. Does that mean we are to be careful that we do not have him exposed to just a little bit of humanism, just a little bit of evolutionary theory, and just a little bit of all the other multitudes of unscriptural concepts? Not even so our children will understand “what the world is like”? Yes, that is exactly what it means! Notice what the verse does not say. It does not say, “You would be better off not to listen to it,” or “I would not recommend that you listen to it.” It says, very clearly, “Cease to hear it!  Read the rest of this entry

A case for banning creationism in schools

Earlier this week I hosted Adam Laats’ engaging argument that, while teaching Creationism in schools might be a bad move, it’s not something it makes sense to ban.

Now Adam has kindly posted my reply on his blog. For those of you that have the patience, there’s already a long debate with a committed creationist in the comments.

I think my argument is plausible, but at the same time, I don’t think that many people agree with me. I welcome your objections. In particular, what would help us to settle the question is a clarification of what is meant by “harm”, and what types of harm to children justify state intervention.

First, we need to get the misleading notion of parents’ rights off the table. Parents are humans, with human rights; children are humans, and they also have human rights. Parental rights are not human rights; they are rights that one human being has to exert control over another. Can you think of another instance where liberal democracies allow a person to act in this way? The only similar examples I know are slavery, imprisonment, and archaic ideas of marriage where ownership of a woman passes from her father to her husband. These do not seem like paradigms to emulate.