Sunday, 3 March 2013

Newsletter March 2013


Free School applications

Despite initial opposition, the Department for Education has finally been made to publish a list of schools currently applying for Free School status, as the result of an appeal buy the British Humanist Association. The list provides much food for thought. In particular, several of the applications are from existing schools that are members of the self-styled Christian Schools Trust (CST), and one is from Christian Education Europe (CEE), a homeschooling agency, both of which are committed to biblical creationism.

We have reason to hope that the Department for Education is now aware of the nature of CST. Grindon Hall, about which we have ongoing concerns because of its strong connection with known creationists, was recently listed as a member on the CST website. We wrote to DfE, drawing their attention to this, and it is clear from their reply (see below for letter and response) that the Department had raised this as a concern with the school, which explained that the listing had been made in error. Of course, had that listing remained, it would have established a most dangerous precedent.  The issue of how a non creationist school finds itself listed on such a web site by mistake is still unclear. We are also pleased that in their letter to us, the Department most clearly reiterated their commitment to insisting on the teaching of evolution as the established scientific view, as a condition of funding.

Regarding CEE, we note that it uses materials from Accelerated Christian Education, discussed by Johnny Scaramanga, as reported on by The Guardian and The Times Educational Supplement. These read like a parody, claiming among other things that evolution has been disproved by scientific evidence, including the discovery of the Loch Ness Monster, that the nuclear fusion explanation of the Sun’s energy is an evolutionist concoction, and that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, both having been created by God on the Sixth Day. You can read more about Jonny and the ACE materials elsewhere on the BCSE blog.

It would be a disaster for the education system if either the CST schools, or CEE, were to receive Free School status, with all that that implies in the way of funding and recognition. We believe that public awareness, as always, is key to preventing such damaging outcomes.

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Page 1 of our letter to the Education Secretary regarding Grindon Hall’s reported membership of CST - click to enlarge

Page 2 of our letter to the Education Secretary regarding Grindon Hall’s reported membership of CST - click to enlarge
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This was the text of our enclosure;

Statement concerning the place of the teaching of the Creation/Evolution debate and Intelligent Design in schools affiliated to the Christian Schools Trust [May 2009]

Source: http://go.warwick.ac.uk/wrap/3115 , Appendix 3

The Christian Schools Trust is a network of independent schools, each of which is able to subscribe to an evangelical basis of faith. The Trust is not in a position to impose stipulations on to its member schools with regard to secondary matters, nor would it wish to do so. The creation/evolution debate, although held to be very important, is regarded by the Trust as a secondary matter, which recognises that there is a diversity of views on this issue amongst Christians who hold a high view of the authority of Scripture. 

The Christian Schools Trust affirms a high view of God as the Creator and sustainer of the Universe and of all living things. It categorically rejects the notion that living things have come into being by a random and purposeless process in which God has played no part. It rejects the idea that living things came about by a process involving the death and destruction of mutated creatures and affirms the belief, held by many scientists both past and present, that nature provides abundant evidence of the hand of a Designer. 

The following description of how the creation/evolution issue is being approached represents the position held by many of the schools although not necessarily by all. 

Teaching at Primary Level 

About 50% of CST schools consist only of primary departments. The majority of the rest cover both primary and secondary levels. Young children within the schools would learn from the start of their schooling that they are created beings, that they are very valuable to God and that they are made in His image. They would be taught that He is the Creator of all things, including all living things, and that He has designed this Earth to be their home. They would also learn that creation was originally good but that it is now flawed as a consequence of sin introduced into the human race by Adam and Eve. The picture presented would be one of decline from an original state that was perfect and highly ordered. The children would be introduced to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God who came to save both them and all of creation from the devastating effects of rebellion against God. This traditional, orthodox, Christian viewpoint, based on teaching that resonates throughout the Bible and has been preserved for millennia in creeds and catechisms, would form the framework within which all subjects, not just those related to science, would be taught. It would not be confined to RE lessons, giving the impression that it would not matter if the opposite were taught in other subjects. The schools would aim to teach consistently within this view of reality. The theory of evolution would rarely be taught directly at primary level, except to answer children‘s questions should they arise or to deal with it in immediately relevant subjects such as when fossils or dinosaurs are under consideration. The creation/evolution debate might possibly be handled in more detail with older primary children if individual schools and teachers consider it to be appropriate. 

Teaching at Secondary Level 

The general framework of Christian theism described above applies as much to the teaching of the older children as it does to the younger. In addition, ideally, 
by the time students reach Years 10 and 11 they will have been fully exposed to the creation/evolution debate. Evidence for and against the theory of evolution will have been evaluated and discussed and they will have been made aware that many, probably most, of today‘s scientists support the theory. However, it will also have been pointed out that many well-qualified scientists oppose it or dissent from it in some way. The role taken in the development of modern science by Christians such as Kepler, Boyle, Newton, Linnaeus, Faraday and Mendel will have been emphasised and it will have been noted that some of these, including Isaac Newton and Carl Linnaeus, held essentially the same position as today‘s “Young-Earth” creationists.
Students will also have been made aware of the differing positions held by Christians on this issue and may have been given an overview of both “Young-Earth” and “Old-Earth” creationist viewpoints and the theistic evolution position. By this stage, it should have been made clear to the students that creationist scientists have no quarrel with Darwin‘s theory that limited change in populations might possibly occur by a process of natural selection. They should have had the opportunity to see that this is not what the debate is about, except that most of the supposed “overwhelming evidence” for evolution falls into this uncontentious and undisputed category. The students will have been told that the debate is about the much more contentious issue, for which creationists maintain there is no convincing evidence, that there is no limit to this process and that by it all living things have come into being in a random, purposeless, fashion involving the deaths of countless billions of mutated creatures.  The creation/evolution controversy provides a stimulating, up-to-date and interesting context within which many important philosophical and scientific principles can be evaluated. Young people educated in this way do well at science both at GCSE level and beyond. Former pupils of CST schools who proceed to University are often surprised at the ignorance, on this topic, of their peers who have been educated in a secular setting which denies that the debate even exists.

Intelligent Design 

The Christian Schools Trust is watching the increasing impact of the Intelligent Design Movement with interest. The fundamental premise of the movement, that biological systems show evidence of having been designed, is one that is to be predicted by those who believe in a Creator.

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The Departmental reply page 1

The Departmental reply page 2


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