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British Ban Teaching Creationism As Science, Should The U.S. Do The Same?

Darwin Fish

The United Kingdom has just banned the teaching of so-called “Creationism” as science in all schools in the country that receive public funding, whether public or private:

LONDON, June 18 (UPI) –The United Kingdom has banned the teaching of creationism as scientifically valid in all schools receiving public funding.

The government released a new set of funding agreements last week including clauses which specifically prohibit pseudoscience.

“The parties acknowledge that clauses 2.43 and 2.44 of the Funding Agreement [which preclude the teaching of pseudoscience and require the teaching of evolution] apply to all academies. They explicitly require that pupils are taught about the theory of evolution, and prevent academy trusts from teaching ‘creationism’ as scientific fact,” one clause reads.

The funding agreement defines creationism as “any 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,” and goes on to note that this idea is rejected not only by the scientific community but most mainstream churches as well.

“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,” the agreement states.

The funding agreement notes that the discussion of beliefs about the origin of the Earth including creationism are permitted in religious education “as long as it is not presented as a valid alternative to established scientific theory.”

The British Humanist Association has been lobbying against the instruction of creationism since 2011 with its Teach Evolutionism, Not Creationism campaign.

The BHA is currently celebrating the UK government’s declaration that “the requirement on every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum … prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school.”

Tom McKay has more:

According to io9, this means any “academy or free school” in the U.K. which teaches creationism to students would be breaking its funding agreement with the government. Academies are roughly equivalent to charter schools in the U.S., while “free schools” are nonprofit independent schools funded by taxpayer dollars, which can be organized by parents, teachers, charities and businesses. The new language updates a 2012 rule which required all future free schools that teach the theory of natural selection alone to include academies and all existing free schools.

This means that the U.K. is on track to more or less completely end the practice of teaching creationism in publicly funded schools. However, it does permit creationism and other beliefs about the origin of the Earth and life to be taught in classes on religion, so long as they are not presented as valid alternatives to scientific theory. While there are further reforms needed in other educational sectors across the U.K., it looks like the biggest step toward getting religion out of taxpayer-funded science classes has just been accomplished.

Contrast that to the U.S.: In the U.S., some $1 billion in taxpayer funding across 14 states goes to private schools. Earlier this year, Politico reported that those private schools included “hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies.”

In the U.S., just the states of Louisiana and Tennessee currently permit creationism and its offshoot, intelligent design, to be taught as alternatives to evolution in public schools. But across much of the South and Midwest, private schools that teach creationism are able to accept millions of dollars in public funding.

Slate created a map showing the parts of the country where private schools that teach some form of creationism while receiving public funding:

Slate Creationism MapThere are, obviously, major differences between education, public or private, in the United Kingdom and the United States. In the U.K., funding for schools tends to be more centralized than it is in the United States, for example, where the majority of funding for education comes from states and localities. That, along with the general influence of different strains of Christianity, is one of the main reasons why we see the concentration of publicly funded private schools in the Southern United States. Additionally, the protections of the First Amendment make it more difficult for government authority to regulate the curriculum taught at private schools, although the schools are generally required to demonstrate that they are complying with state education standards, and their students take most of the same standardized tests as public school students.

At the same time, the law is clear that teaching Creationism or even so-called “Intelligent Design in public school classrooms is constitutionally impermissible. In 1987, in Edwards v. Aguillard, the Supreme Court held that school districts cannot teach creationism along side evolution in a science classroom. More recently, a Federal District Court Judge in Pennsylvania held that a school dist in that state was barred from teaching so-called “intelligent design” in public school classrooms. In both cases, and in others that have dealt with these issues, the Courts found, correctly, that whether it is called “creationism,” “creation science,” or “intelligent design,” what schools are trying to teach in these cases is nothing other than a warmed over, possibly slightly secularized, version of the Genesis Creation Myth. There is no science behind what’s being taught. And, most importantly, in most of the cases that have gone to court there was direct evidence that the legislators and school board members who pushed these additions to the curriculum were intending to advance religion.

The question, of course, is whether or not what happened in the United Kingdom could happen in the United States. To some degree, at least, the First Amendment protects religious and parochial schools in teaching religious doctrine. At the same time, though, these schools must meet most of the same education standards as public schools. Additionally, it’s worth noting that not all of the private schools at issue here are religious schools per se. In Texas, for example there is a charter school that teaches creationism and similar institutions around the country. On some level, it seems as though if these institutions are receiving public funding then they should be required to meet certain standards, and one of those ought to be that they shouldn’t be teaching something that isn’t science in a science classrooms.

In a rational world, of course, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Teaching Creationism in a science classroom would be seen as absurd as the idea of teaching that the world is flat in a Geology class, or that Earth is at the center of the universe in an Astronomy class. Instead, thanks in no small part to the bifurcated education system that we have in this country, which is unlikely to change any time in the future, we have something like this. The United Kingdom took a radical step by banning even private schools from teaching creationism if they receive public funds, but it’s not an idea I’m willing to dismiss out of hand. After all, if these institutions want to continue teaching creationism, or anything else for that matter, then they can stop taking public funds. As long as they do, however,then they ought to answer for what they’re teaching children.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Creationism is not science and should not be taught as science.
    To even question this makes everyone dumber.
    Most importantly though…this, Doug, is where your both sides do it nonsense leads.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 2

  2. grumpy realist says:

    If I were running my own space colony, teaching Creationism as science would be punishable by getting thrown out of the airlock.

    Encouraging non-science to be taught as science is the equivalent of allowing lead paint in children’s bedrooms. The effects don’t show up immediately, but the idiots who are doing this are taking an axe to the roots of the U.S.’s science and technology capital. When you religious bozos find that your kids have to learn Chinese in the future because the US doesn’t have a first world economy any more, you can blame yourselves.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 2

  3. Mu says:

    I guess it’s easier in Europe where none of the major Christian denominations live and die by the infallibility of the bible. Here I’m happy when no one demands we dynamite Dinosaur National Monument and fill the Grand Canyon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    I think it should be left to the states. If Mississippi wants to return to the dark ages so be it. Parents who home school their children based on “Christian Values” are often shocked to find their children can’t get into college because of a complete lack of science knowledge. So be it!. Here in the US we have the right to be ignorant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 8

  5. EddieInCA says:

    British Ban Teaching Creationism As Science, Should The U.S. Do The Same?

    Yes.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 0

  6. SenyorDave says:

    I would say they can do what they want except ultimately these schools use our tax dollars. In some states they actively try to divert money from public schools to private schools. Plus it doesn’t give me any pleasure to have large numbers of young people in LA, TX, FL and TN being non-educated in science. It doesn’t help that the Republican party has all but adopted teaching creationism as one of there mantras. Not surprising, I guess, because the GOP does effectively function largely as a fundamentalist Christian party.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  7. Tyrell says:

    No. The curriculum should be up to the states, or better the individual districts. It should not be the province of someone far away in Washington, or some judge.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 46

  8. CSK says:

    I’m fine with teaching creationism in the public schools–as long as it’s part of a course in Comparative Religion or Comparative Mythology. It might actually be instructive for students to see how closely aligned the various creation myths are.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 0

  9. anjin-san says:

    @ Tyrell

    So if an individual district wants to teach kids that fairies and trolls are real, well, that’s just too bad for the kids?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  10. beth says:

    @Tyrell: Would you be okay with teaching palm reading in Biology class as an accepted way to diagnose ailments?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  11. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    This isn’t a matter of curriculum…it’s about myths and fantasies being taught as science.
    You do realize dinosaurs did not walk the planet with man, correct?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  12. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: So if someone wants to teach something like, oh, HIV isn’t sexually transmissible or vaccines cause autism you’re perfectly fine with the aftereffects?

    The hope of those of us who are scientists is that you will listen to those of us who have done experiments and not decide the best way to learn is through personal experience. Stuff that is rather important–like the fact that measles can cause brain damage. Or that the critical mass of plutonium is less than 200 kg….but I guess you’re perfectly happy living in a fallout zone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    I think it should be left to the states. If Mississippi wants to return to the dark ages so be it. Parents who home school their children based on “Christian Values” are often shocked to find their children can’t get into college because of a complete lack of science knowledge. So be it!. Here in the US we have the right to be ignorant.

    I agree.

    If states like Kansas and Mississippi want to be the ‘stupid states’ – so be it. I feel sorry for the parents of kids in places like Kansas or Mississippi who want their children to learn the principles and methods of science but I suspect that private schools are there, as is home schooling, or … moving might be necessary.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: I think it should be taught in a Civics class as an example of how a small, but dedicated and well funded group can subvert democracy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  15. humanoid.panda says:

    @Tyrell: Tell, me, in your world, do children have rights, or are rights reserved to states?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  16. humanoid.panda says:

    @al-Ameda: This in an incredibly privileged thing to say. There are millions of kids in red states whose parents don’t have the resources to move. What about them and their futures?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  17. C. Clavin says:

    @humanoid.panda:
    Exactly…states like Jindal’s LA are the biggest Federal dollar welfare queens…and they want to keep their kids dumb.
    Why would that be you might ask?
    Because you don’t have to be dumb to vote Republican…but if you are dumb odds are great that you vote Republican.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  18. Grewgills says:

    @anjin-san: @beth: @grumpy realist:
    This whole conversation has my humors out of alignment. Send for the leaches!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  19. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    Fine, but if your state teaches Creationism (or your school district) any federal funding is pulled. That’s fair, isn’t it? They aren’t necessarily demanding you change, they just aren’t going to fund anti-science idiocy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  20. rudderpedals says:

    I see the logic in Florida’s approach. Of course it’s true. Thank Gaia, mother of us all, impregnated she was by Uranus’s blood etc. upon his castration (by his son no less). Creationism is harsh and made for TV but there it is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  21. mantis says:

    The curriculum should be up to the states, or better the individual districts. It should not be the province of someone far away in Washington, or some judge.

    If they want to teach nonsense and call it science, let them pay for it themselves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  22. Another Mike says:

    @Ron Beasley: Do you have any evidence for this? Do you have a link? My impression is that home schooled kids tested better on average than other kids. Even if biblical creation were taught, it would only be a small part of the subject of science.

    Intelligent design does not have to be creationism. Intelligent design could allow for creation as Darwin’s theory envisions it, except that the force that moved it was not accessible to science. Science by definition does not allow for anything that would be unknowable to science. Thus science by definition does not necessarily cover all there is. It merely claims to be all there is. The courts merely accepted science’s claim, which is basically a metaphysical claim, and not even science.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 25

  23. anjin-san says:

    @ Grewgills

    Beware the night vapors!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  24. anjin-san says:

    The courts merely accepted science’s claim

    Really? Is “science” a person? Can you provide more details about science walking up the courtroom steps and proceeding to make claims?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  25. Dave D says:

    @Another Mike:

    Intelligent design does not have to be creationism. Intelligent design could allow for creation as Darwin’s theory envisions it, except that the force that moved it was not accessible to science.

    Then ID is not falsifiable and therefore it is not science and cannot be taught as science. So trying to teach it as science is wrong and tax dollars should in no way be spent upon this. Unless we want to lose the space race to the Soviets.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  26. grumpy realist says:

    @Another Mike: Sorry, just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean you get to plug God into it and say Hedidit. Maybe it’s because you don’t understand probability.

    (BTW, half of the stuff the ID “expert” in the Dover case was claimed “hadn’t been explained by science” was refuted by 60 books on the table. If your experts lie, why should we listen to the rest of your arguments?)

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  27. wr says:

    @Ron Beasley: “I think it should be left to the states. If Mississippi wants to return to the dark ages so be it. ”

    Why? Aren’t Mississipians American citizens? Should they be damned to ignorance simply because they live in a different state? Because what is so magical about state boundaries — despite what the most loathesome of the Tea Partiers like to claim, we are all one country.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  28. wr says:

    @al-Ameda: “If states like Kansas and Mississippi want to be the ‘stupid states’ – so be it”

    A state can’t want anything. It doesn’t have emotions. It is a geographical entity. Now it’s true that some of the people in these states choose to be ignorant — or stupid. But just because they’ve managed to seize political power in a locality, does that mean we have to abandon the American citizens who do not agree with this?

    If the majority of one state decides that public schooling should end at the seventh grade because all that book learning is bad for you, should the US government just shrug and say “whatever”?

    Those state lines are artificial constructs. The people who live inside them are all citizens of the same nation. Our nation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  29. Anon says:

    Sure, we can teach creationism in science class. As long as Sunday schools are required to also teach evolution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  30. mantis says:

    @Another Mike:

    Intelligent design does not have to be creationism.

    How clever of the creationist hucksters who invented it. In any case, it still isn’t science. It’s creationism in a cheap tuxedo.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  31. Another Mike says:

    @Dave D: Much science is observational and fails falsifiability.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @Another Mike: Then you had better bloody well come up with a reason as to why we have to shoehorn “GODDIDIT” into the theory of How Things Came About. Just because it makes you feel all warm and comfy and happy in your little God-put-me-at-the-Center-of-the-Universe concept of the world.

    So far the Theory of Evolution does a perfectly fine job of explaination. No need to shove a deity into it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  33. Another Mike says:

    @grumpy realist: I didn’t plug God into anything. I didn’t even mention the word. If you want to give me a lesson on probability, then feel free to do so. Nothing like an opportunity to learn. Also, I have no experts. It is just me. I am a Catholic. I have no dog in this fight. I think it was John Paul II who said something like the Church has no objection to science. Anything accessible to right reason is acceptable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  34. mantis says:

    @Another Mike:

    I didn’t plug God into anything.

    That’s what ID does. Sure, they say it doesn’t have to be god. It could be aliens or some other supernatural force, but they aren’t fooling anyone with that cheap tuxedo. That ain’t science, and shouldn’t be accepted as such.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  35. SKI says:

    @wr:

    Those state lines are artificial constructs. The people who live inside them are all citizens of the same nation. Our nation.

    This is what we, as a country, have been fighting about since 1776.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  36. mantis says:

    @Another Mike:

    Much science is observational and fails falsifiability.

    Yes, in theoretical physics with current technology and some other fields. But not biology, or botany, or anthropology, or geology, or any of the other fields that support the incredibly robust theory of evolution through natural selection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  37. mantis says:

    @Another Mike:

    Also, I have no experts. It is just me. I am a Catholic.

    You should check out the work of Kenneth Miller, a well-respected cell/microbiologist, critic of creationism/ID, and a Catholic. He’s also a really nice guy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  38. al-Ameda says:

    @wr:

    If the majority of one state decides that public schooling should end at the seventh grade because all that book learning is bad for you, should the US government just shrug and say “whatever”?

    Those state lines are artificial constructs. The people who live inside them are all citizens of the same nation. Our nation.

    I know, it’s just that Mississippi has resisted being in the United States for the better part of 160 years. Kansas? Well lately they’ve decided that they’re part of the nation of Christianity, the Church-State thing causes them no anxiety whatsoever.

    Seriously, the public is divided over whether or not the federal government should legislate content control over state and local authorities – should we shrug and say as I did – that if they want to be stupid, so be it? Or should we legislate fairy tales like creationism out of our schools?

    I do favor legislating it out of our schools, however I have zero illusion that that would be the end of it in those states that like fairy tale science – they’ll fight it for the next 100 years or so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  39. sam says:

    @Another Mike:

    @Dave D: Much science is observational and fails falsifiability.

    Can you explain what you mean by that? To say of proposition P that it is falsifiable means it is possible to imagine physical circumstances under which not-P is true. This is not to say that P is in fact false, only that we can imagine circumstances under which it is false. Falsifiability is a logical condition on propositions. ID theories are said not to be falsifiable because there is no conceivable set of empirical circumstances which would render the fundamental holding of ID theory false. And this because, by definition, the fundamental agent of change in ID theory, the prime mover, so to speak, is outside the chain of causation that forms the world, is outside any conceivable set of empirical conditions that can occur in the world. Basically, there is no physical experiment one can produce to prove or disprove the existence of an intelligent designer. The ID hypothesis is a like a device of finely crafted parts that, no matter how elegantly the parts mesh, proves to be doing zero work on examination. The most telling point against the ID hypothesis is that it is utterly otiose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  40. wr says:

    @al-Ameda: “I do favor legislating it out of our schools, however I have zero illusion that that would be the end of it in those states that like fairy tale science – they’ll fight it for the next 100 years or so.”

    I agree entirely. I just don’t think we can shrug and say “let them have Kansas.” The only reason we have a government that’s incapable of accomplishing anything besides increasing suffering to the poorest among us is because the horrible people who believe in hurting the poor care more about voting in midterms.

    If we have to fight for a century, then we should fight for a century. And then we need to be prepared to fight for another century, because as soon as we stop, they’ll be back — just as they’re in congress now, trying to undo everything that’s happened since WW1.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  41. dennis says:

    @Another Mike:

    My impression is that home schooled kids tested better on average than other kids.

    “My impression is …” “I believe that …” “I heard that …” “It’s been my experience …”

    This is why aliens don’t stop off to talk to us …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  42. george says:

    @Tyrell:

    No. The curriculum should be up to the states, or better the individual districts. It should not be the province of someone far away in Washington, or some judge.

    Oddly enough, as much as I think creationism has zero to do with science (and if you’re going to teach it in religion, it should include the creation myths of all the major world religions), I tend to agree that curriculum should be state or even district based. Its done that way in Canada for instance, and it works well. Quebec for instance has a quite different curriculum than British Columbia, and first nations communities often teach things such as their own language that would never be given room in a nation wide curriculum.

    And my suspicion is that even the states silly enough to teach creationism as science would back away from that once parents start complaining that their kids can’t get into good universities because of holes in their education.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. Tillman says:

    Gonna have to stick with a state-or-district-controlled curriculum here. (Like Ron Beasley and Tyrell; whew, look at the difference in voting there!) Other approaches have too many problems to them. You can make federal funding for a school contingent on having certain baselines in your curricula, but beyond that each region decides for itself what to teach its students.

    Each region competes with the other, so the educational baseline shouldn’t be horribly dissimilar across the U.S. When you get areas that teach creationism, their students will underachieve compared to the national average and they will lose talent. They will self-correct over time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  44. dennis says:

    @Another Mike:

    ntelligent design does not have to be creationism. Intelligent design could allow for creation as Darwin’s theory envisions it, except that the force that moved it was not accessible to science. Science by definition does not allow for anything that would be unknowable to science. Thus science by definition does not necessarily cover all there is. It merely claims to be all there is. The courts merely accepted science’s claim, which is basically a metaphysical claim, and not even science.

    Oh, ffs. So are you saying that “the force that moved it” is something that occurs outside of the natural world? Because if that’s what you’re saying, there’s NO WAY you can prove that empirically. Which pretty much makes ID the same mumbo jumbo as creation theory, and I’m using “theory” real-f***ing-loosely here.

    Science doesn’t cover all there is? You are correct, but only in that science is constantly making new discoveries. But those discoveries are in the natural world. Now, let’s tackle your “Science by definition does not allow for anything that would be unknowable to science” statement with a simple question:

    Did you get a headache when you thought up that gem? Tell me ONE thing that you know that does not exist or occur in the natural world. Actual physical evidence is required.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  45. DrDaveT says:

    @Tyrell:

    It should not be the province of someone far away in Washington, or some judge.

    Or, y’know, scientists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  46. DrDaveT says:

    @Tillman:

    They will self-correct over time.

    There was a Nobel-prize-winning economist who said the same thing about racial and gender discrimination, using much the same argument. Even if he was right, how many generations of non-whites and non-males have to suffer needlessly while we wait? How much productivity is lost? How much divisive wealth inequity exacerbated?

    Historically, curricula were devised locally because nothing else was practical. I don’t see how states or municipalities have standing here. Whether you enforce a national curriculum, or simply punish locals for teaching non-compliant curricula, the nation has a legitimate long-term interest in the competence of its adults, and a short-term interest in the ability of the children to eventually support themselves in the economy. Ensuring proper education is at least as important as ensuring national military capabilities and homeland security.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  47. DrDaveT says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    If Mississippi wants to return to the dark ages so be it.

    So let me get this straight — if Mississippi wants to deny a decent education to black children, you’re irate. But if they want to deny a decent education to ALL children, that’s fine with you?

    I think you need to rethink.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  48. PJ says:

    @Dave D:

    Unless we want to lose the space race to the Soviets.

    People would have landed on the moon far sooner with the God Catapult ™.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  49. PJ says:

    @DrDaveT:

    There was a Nobel-prize-winning economist

    Unless he’s an economist winning an actual Nobel prize (Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace, or Physiology/Medicine), then he’s not a Nobel prize winner. He’s a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

    There’s no Nobel prize in economics.

    But I fully agree with the rest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  50. anjin-san says:

    @ Dennis

    “My impression is …” “I believe that …” “I heard that …” “It’s been my experience …”

    Some say that these sort of vague generalities actually mean something…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  51. beth says:

    @Tillman: Y

    ou can make federal funding for a school contingent on having certain baselines in your curricula, but beyond that each region decides for itself what to teach its students

    But isn’t that the same as the federal government setting standards for curricula? You wouldn’t approve of a state deciding not to teach math would you? There’s got to be some countrywide standards or states could decide not to bother teaching math in inner city schools, for example.

    I can understand allowing localities some leeway in what they teach but as others have pointed out above, the government does have an interest in ensuring that all students receive certain baseline skills. Maybe I’m not quite getting what you wrote but I don’t think you meant the same thing as Tyrell or Ron.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  52. @Ron Beasley: When I put my kids back into public schools (from home schooling) they outperformed their peers across the board. I love it when know-it-alls expose their rank ignorance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  53. Rafer Janders says:

    @Let’s Be Free:

    Anectdata!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  54. DrDaveT says:

    @PJ:

    There’s no Nobel prize in economics.

    Yes, yes, and a tomato is actually a fruit, and an almond isn’t really a nut, it’s a drupe, and pandas and koalas aren’t bears. You must be a blast at parties.

    Do you really think my point would have been better-made had I said “Gary Becker, a University of Chicago economist who was once awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (which is not actually a Nobel Prize), once…” ? The NY Times thinks not, at any rate. Concision often trumps pedantry.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  55. Rafer Janders says:

    @Let’s Be Free:

    When I put my kids back into public schools (from home schooling) they outperformed their peers across the board. I love it when know-it-alls expose their rank ignorance.

    I love that too in this instance but, I suspect, in a somewhat more ironic way than you meant it….

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  56. MarkedMan says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that, on average, home school children do fine academically in college. The commitment of time and resources to home school your children is pretty incredible, and in my limited experience, the people who take this task on were good students themselves and feel at ease teaching academic subjects. Not exactly the typical person person you drag off the street.

    This in no way compares to religious schools. You could have a well organized creationism school that would attract all kinds of parents. But, by definition, not the ones that home school their kids. These schools can teach all kinds of nonsense. Perhaps worse, they can teach all kinds of intolerance and hate. I remember an expose of some charter schools in the DC area (?? I may be wrong on that – if anyone thinks it important I’ll do some digging) that were teaching a pretty anti-white agenda, while the kids were failing basic concepts in math and english. Muslim schools teaching hate against Jews, Evangelical schools teaching hate against Catholics. If they fund them themselves, maybe there is not much to be done. But I’ll be d*mned if I’ll concede to my tax dollars being used for it.

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  57. Grewgills says:

    The simplest answer is to require that any theory taught in science classes actually be a theory. ID has yet to pass the hypothesis threshold. They have not produced a single testable hypothesis.
    Scientists understand that science is not capable of answering some questions. Religious people need to understand that non scientific and not rational can be value neutral terms. To say that religion is not scientific or not rational isn’t to say it doesn’t have value, it’s just saying that it doesn’t fall into the categories it is built to study. Your religious beliefs no more belong in my classroom than scientific theories belongs in your Sunday school class.

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  58. Grewgills says:

    @MarkedMan:
    It is difficult to generalize on homeschooling. There are a lot of parents doing it for a lot of different reasons. If we could find a good group to coop home school with, I’d consider it over the public options we have now. As it is, we’ll probably just supplement her education at home. We are fortunate that we are equipped to do that. A lot of parents aren’t.

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  59. JWH says:

    @beth:

    Would you be okay with teaching palm reading in Biology class as an accepted way to diagnose ailments?

    I thought palm-reading is for personal financial advice.

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  60. JWH says:

    @Another Mike:

    Intelligent design does not have to be creationism. Intelligent design could allow for creation as Darwin’s theory envisions it, except that the force that moved it was not accessible to science.

    This description isn’t really intelligent design; ID proponents typically posit that a divine creator created many species or kinds of critters from the ether. You’re describing something a little closer to theistic evolution — a belief that there was a deity of some sort that set the whole thing in motion.

    In any case, this designer — or a first cause — really is religion, and beyond the scope of science, and therefore has no place in a public-school science classroom.

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  61. DrDaveT says:

    @Grewgills:

    The simplest answer is to require that any theory taught in science classes actually be a theory. ID has yet to pass the hypothesis threshold. They have not produced a single testable hypothesis.

    True. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure you can say the same thing about most versions of Superstring Theory, or the Eternal Inflation theory of Linde and Vilenkin. And yet, many physicists (though not all) would call both of those ‘science’.

    I’m not trying to defend Intelligent Design here; I don’t think it’s defensible. I am trying to point out that drawing a sharp line between science and non-science (or pseudoscience) is a lot harder than most people — including most scientists — think.

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  62. wr says:

    @george: “And my suspicion is that even the states silly enough to teach creationism as science would back away from that once parents start complaining that their kids can’t get into good universities because of holes in their education.”

    And then Republicans in congress will pass laws saying that universities can’t “discriminate” against ignorant people as long as their ignorance is a product of their religious upbringing, and the reactionary Roberts court will claim that science programs “discriminating” against students who refuse to acknowledge science is unconstitutional.

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  63. Another Mike says:

    @JWH:

    In any case, this designer — or a first cause — really is religion, and beyond the scope of science, and therefore has no place in a public-school science classroom.

    Yes, that’s about all one can really say. Science will never answer the question of why there is anything. Science will never know why we are.

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  64. george says:

    @DrDaveT:

    True. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure you can say the same thing about most versions of Superstring Theory, or the Eternal Inflation theory of Linde and Vilenkin. And yet, many physicists (though not all) would call both of those ‘science’.

    Actually I know of almost no physicist who would call Superstring theory science except in a casual conversation sense (that is, when asked if it is science they’ll say something on the lines of “not yet”, though they’ll generally include it as science in casual talk – its generally considered applied math, with the potential of becoming science. And that includes the people working on it.

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  65. grumpy realist says:

    @george: Most of my friends who were involved with it call it Playing Around With Math. And other, much ruder terms.

    My boyfriend in fact quit the field after several years working in it. About the time that they discovered there are supposedly an infinite number of Calabi-Yau manifolds which satisfied the basic requirements. So even process by elimination wouldn’t work. (They later were able to collapse the infinite set down to something not-so-infinite again, if I remember correctly.)

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  66. Tillman says:

    @beth:

    You wouldn’t approve of a state deciding not to teach math would you? There’s got to be some countrywide standards or states could decide not to bother teaching math in inner city schools, for example.

    Remember, this debate runs concurrently to the one about how much math adults really need to know. Algebra’s usefulness (or the active practice of it anyway) to the average middle-class job is dubious at best.

    A gift I gave my father some Christmases ago was “Things I Used to Know,” and the subjects it covered in the math section, such as geometry, trigonometry, higher-order algebra…the book includes those subjects for a reason. Most people don’t need them.

    Honestly, looking at the current setup of education in this country, I’m not sure what I said we needed isn’t what we have already.

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  67. Deserttrek says:

    teaching creationism banned?

    ban the teaching of the fraud of global warming/climatechange/mankind is destroying the earth also.

    neither one is provable or fact and evolution is not a fact either. thats why its called a theory.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 9

  68. Deserttrek says:

    @C. Clavin:
    the global warming fraud is not factual either …. we need to stop that being taught also

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  69. al-Ameda says:

    @Deserttrek:

    neither one is provable or fact and evolution is not a fact either. thats why its called a theory.

    So many people use the word “theory” as a pejorative. They use it to imply that nothing is definitely proved if all outcomes cannot be predicted by that theory.

    That is not how science and theory work at all. In science a theory is a tested, documented and substantiated explanation of natural phenomena, that is borne out by repeated observations and outcomes. It is not necessary for every observation outcome to conform to the theory for that theory to be valid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  70. george says:

    @Deserttrek:

    neither one is provable or fact and evolution is not a fact either. thats why its called a theory.

    Let me be the first to point out that quantum mechanics, Newtonian physics (including F=ma which turns out to be incorrect at relativistic speeds and needs to be F=dp/dt), and everything else you learn in science from grade one to Nobel Prize is also just theory.

    If you’re not going to teach theory in science class you’re going to have very short classes – there’s nothing else to teach. Even what are sometimes called laws are in fact theories. Note for instance the theory called Newton’s 2nd Law giving F=ma is in fact incorrect – which is why it is a (disproven) theory.

    You seem to be advocating removing all science from the school system. I’m sure much of the rest of the world, which would love the chance to pass the US in technology, would applaud your vision.

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  71. beth says:

    @Tillman: You’ll get no argument from me on that. My daughter just graduated high school and we estimate we’ve spent a year’s college tuition on the math tutors she had since third grade. I’m all for a year of algebra, a year of basic geometry/trig/calculus and a year of accounting and/or statistics for high school students. Make the more difficult math available for kids that are so inclined. However, this is very different from a state having the leeway in education standards to decide not to give a basic education to a group of people. I think you agree there should be a baseline of skills that every American child should be taught which seems to be different from what Tyrell and Ron were saying which if I read them correctly was that there should be no baseline or requirements.

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  72. Dave D says:

    @Deserttrek: Gravity is just a theory too, anyone who doubts it is welcome to jump out of a ten story window.” —RichardDawkins

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  73. grumpy realist says:

    @beth: I’d say we still need math; we just need different math than we’re getting taught.

    Statistics and probability would be nice. The average American goes batsh*t insane over miniscule risks.

    And all the other stuff like interest, compounding interest, all the alphabet soup we find in mortgage loans, and the more practical financial stuff.

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  74. TerryL2112 says:

    @Deserttrek:

    “A scientific theory summarizes a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. If enough evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, it moves to the next step—known as a theory—in the scientific method and becomes accepted as a valid explanation of a phenomenon.

    When used in non-scientific context, the word “theory” implies that something is unproven or speculative. As used in science, however, a theory is an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena.”

    Now that you know what “theory” in science is… you might not come across as completely ignorant about it in the future

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  75. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:

    True. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure you can say the same thing about most versions of Superstring Theory, or the Eternal Inflation theory of Linde and Vilenkin.

    ID isn’t physics, so the physics definition of theory doesn’t apply, but if they can match that definition I’ll give them a listen.
    That said, I’m willing to punt those to college if it means getting ID out of science classrooms.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  76. wr says:

    @Deserttrek: “neither one is provable or fact and evolution is not a fact either. thats why its called a theory.”

    Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honor to present the laziest troll on the internet…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  77. sam says:

    “one is provable or fact and evolution is not a fact either. thats why its called a theory”

    Ah, perhaps we should point out that there is a distinction between a set of facts (the evolution of organisms) and a theory (e.g. Darwin’s) that is said to describe the mechanism that accounts for that set of facts. This is not some a too-subtle distinction, but one that ought to be kept in mind before the mouth or fingers are engaged.

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  78. gVOR08 says:

    @Deserttrek: Gravity is a theory. The germ theory of disease is a theory. Relativity is a theory. That word does not mean what you think it means.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  79. DrDaveT says:

    @Tillman:

    Algebra’s usefulness (or the active practice of it anyway) to the average middle-class job is dubious at best.

    Maybe, but I would argue that there is a very strong public policy case to be made for making sure every citizen is at least modestly competent at probability and statistics — which certainly requires algebra as a co-requisite.

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  80. DrDaveT says:

    @Grewgills:

    ID isn’t physics, so the physics definition of theory doesn’t apply

    I’m not sure what your point is there. You said nothing should be taught as science that doesn’t make testable predictions. I’m pointing out that there are things professional scientists spend all of their time working on that don’t meet that test. It’s a very good test as far as it goes, but it’s not the bright line rule that you think it is.

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  81. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I’m not sure what your point is there. You said nothing should be taught as science that doesn’t make testable predictions.

    No, I said:

    The simplest answer is to require that any theory taught in science classes actually be a theory. ID has yet to pass the hypothesis threshold. They have not produced a single testable hypothesis.

    ID is (pretending to be) a life science. As such, in order to be a theory it requires a testable hypothesis and that hypothesis must be rigorously tested to become a theory. ID hasn’t even formed a testable hypothesis, much less rigorously tested one. Were ID (pretending to be) physics then certain mathematical models could qualify, though I’m of a mind that mathematical constructs like string theory should be called models rather than theories.
    ID can serve a purpose in the science classroom. That purpose being a demonstration of science vs non-science. I usually content myself with vaccine myths and homeopathy for that, but ID would serve as well.

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  82. Grewgills says:

    @Grewgills: @DrDaveT:
    To be a bit more clear, my point was narrower than what you took it to be. ID proponents want ID to be taught as a competing theory to evolution. ID is a proposition or a set of assertions, but it is NOT a theory, so teaching that it is a theory (much less one on par with evolution) is a lie.
    Students should be given a firm grounding in scientific method and be able to determine for themselves what is and is not a testable hypothesis and what is and is not a theory. When the class discussions get to the point where the kids are questioning whether string theory should be properly called a theory that is a good thing.

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  83. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:
    Teaching algebra also teaches a way of logical thinking. The best testing predictor of student success in most early sciences (even those that don’t require algebra) is an algebra test.

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  84. DrDaveT says:

    @Grewgills:

    ID is a proposition or a set of assertions, but it is NOT a theory, so teaching that it is a theory (much less one on par with evolution) is a lie.

    OK, we agree on this. I had taken you to be making a broader claim about falsifiability, which (as I noted) some corners of modern science currently fail.

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  85. DrDaveT says:

    @Grewgills:

    The best testing predictor of student success in most early sciences (even those that don’t require algebra) is an algebra test.

    I’d go farther — you can’t do good science if you can’t do math. That’s obvious in physics, but the current epidemic (if you’ll pardon the pun) of bad science in epidemiology, medicine, nutrition science, etc. is driven by a failure to understand the math behind statistical inference. (Well, or a willful disregard of correctness in the pursuit of tenure, but that’s a different issue. The journals are acting as enablers here.)

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  86. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:
    True. There is too much reliance on statistical packages to do the statistics for you without a full understanding of what those packages are doing or why the test chosen is appropriate. I expect I will get a fresh taste of this since my institution needs an epidemiologist and so I might be going back to grad school for another degree.

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  87. DrDaveT says:

    @Grewgills:

    I expect I will get a fresh taste of this since my institution needs an epidemiologist and so I might be going back to grad school for another degree.

    Have fun with that. Epidemiology is a cool subject. The current problem is that the academic journals don’t recognize the need to adjust significance thresholds when doing multiple simultaneous tests/comparisons. If you’re not an academic, that shouldn’t affect you.

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  88. Grewgills says:

    @DrDaveT:
    I am an academic and will be going back for PhD. I haven’t had to formally use statistics other than in reading papers for several years now and I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my work, so I will be taking some statistics to brush up.

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