Part 1 here.
This is a continuation of what I, and many others, see as the problem of creationist views (and other religous nonsense) being taught in schools.
First is the letter from Greg Hands and below that is my response.
Dear Mr Smith,
Thank you for contacting me again about the Exemplar Newark Business Academy.
I do understand your concerns about the teaching of creationism in Religious Education classes alongside the teaching of evolutionary theory in science classes, and the conclusions that children may draw as a result.
However, I do not agree with you that “having faith schools is bad enough”. Faith schools provide a valuable moral grounding that complements the traditional academic subjects taught, and I do not believe it is possible to judge the content of all R.E. classes in all schools based on the one example of the Madani High School in the Richard Dawkins documentary.
I would like to reassure you again that any free school proposals with (sic) be subject to due diligence checks prior to their approval, and that the Exemplar Newark Business Academy and any other school approved will have to demonstrate that they are providing a broad and balanced education for their pupils.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to write to me on this matter.
Greg Hands MP
Member of Parliament for Chelsea and Fulham.
And my response:
Dear Mr Hands,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to me on the Exemplar Newark Business Academy. It is one of the things I appreciate about you.
If I may I would first like to address what you describe as the “valuable moral grounding provided by faith schools”. I will focus on Christianity, as that is the faith I was raised in, but there is a general point that lies spouted by religions are not a good source of moral behaviour.
You will undoubtedly be aware that the Old Testament is an incredibly poor source of morals — which sees God responsible for the deaths of millions — and as it is completely indefensible I won’t bother with it. I will point out that for many people the Old Testament serves as the source of evidence that theories such as evolution (sometimes specifically natural selection), and solar system formation & evolution are somehow not true.
In the New Testament we are delighted by lessons to scorn non-believers, women are seen as second-class citizens, there’s even a spot of gay bashing and we are of course introduced to the concept of Hell: an eternal punishment that you can get to simply by having thoughts.
No Mr Hands, religion is a terrible place to get your morals from. Better, I think, that you just try to be the good person you are without living in fear that you have not hated a group of people enough for your gods liking.
By the way, the good morals one can get from Christianity do not originate in the Abrahamic religions. And you only have to look at places like The Vatican for an example of how to live an unmistakably immoral lifestyle.
I’m not suggesting that the appalling lack of basic science knowledge in evolution demonstrated by the teacher in the Dawkins documentary is representative of an epidemic in faith schools. However the fact that such a case managed to slip past Ofsted should be setting off alarms.
If I was teaching that gravity gave our planet its rounded shape but then all my students came to me and said, “We think you’re wrong. We think a giant shaped it out of clay with his bare hands.” then I would be very alarmed indeed.
It is incredibly wrong that children are allowed to be taught a lie simply because their parents have seen fit to indoctrinate them in to a particular religion, and we should all be ashamed for allowing it to be done.
With this in mind and having witnessed what is clearly a specific failure of the faith-based education system how does the government intend to make sure that faith schools teach science correctly and to a high standard?
Further how do you intend to make sure that the Ofsted inspectors are qualified enough to decide that a science lesson has been taught correctly? I direct your attention (link below) to a piece by Michael Rosen in which an ICT teacher had his subject knowledge rated as ‘good’ because the inspector did not know enough to rate it as ‘outstanding’.
Please, in your response, do not avoid the moral issue (which you raised). I am deeply concerned that an elected official believes that religion provides a valuable moral grounding.
P.S. Here is the link to the Michael Rosen piece. http://michaelrosenblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/ict-teacher-writes-about-ofsted.html