Education Creation Style
First published in The Skeptic Vol. 15 No. 3, p.54
A report published in the Australian Journal of Education, Vol. 37, No. 3, 1993, pp. 279-295 titled Fundamentalist Education and Creation Science by Cathy Speck and David Prideaux from the University of South Australia, concentrates on the quality of the curriculum offered in the fast proliferating Christian community schools and parent-controlled Christian schools (a frightening concept) and refers specifically to those that operate on the American developed Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum.
The ACE curriculum is in essence based on creation "science" beliefs and centres around a system of programmed learning booklets called PACEs (Packets of Christian Education). The American founder and chief 'theoretician' of the ACE curriculum is Donald Howard who writes:
Education is life. The Bible is the Book of Life. It is the foundation of all human relations and principles of teaching. It is the basis of all Accelerated Christian Education text materials ... designed for programming the mind to enable the child to see life from God's point of view ... Humanism, progressivism, situation ethics and the new morality ... are replaced by the absolute standards of right and wrong. [my emphasis]
The web site ACE School of Tomorrow provides a good insight into the Bible based and "non evolutionary" basis of the ACE curriculum.
The report deals in some detail with the ACE social studies and science curriculum. It first makes a comparison with the ACE and primary school social studies curriculum documents from all Australian states and territories. I quote from the study:
The majority of PACEs have been developed in North America, but some have been ... prepared locally and substituted for the corresponding international PACE ... On the criterion of content alone, the ACE Social Studies booklets fail to give children a broad understanding of Australian society. The PACEs teach ancient Biblical history, a little modern history related to Christian leaders, and world geography via missionaries with an emphasis on the missionaries themselves, and a value-laden view of economics ...
Substantive values are taught in an essentially one-sided and occasionally prejudicial manner, characterising members of government as "evil":
The government must be a busy servant of the people for good. The governments on earth are doing what God commanded in making rules and laws for men to follow. Not all men in government love God, so everything is not the way God wants it in government. The world is filled with sinful people. Some of those in government are evil men who do not love God. They do not know how to treat others right [sic] because they do not love God right [sic].
ACE social studies also pushes a distinctly patriarchal line in depicting wives as being subservient to their husbands. A woman's place is taught as being in the home. The study quotes the mother in the "Virtueson" family explaining her role to her son Ace:
Ace, your father is the head of our home. It is God's plan for the father to be the head of his family. I talk to your father about things, but he is the one who decides what we must do. I would do wrong not to obey your father because he is the head of our home. God is pleased when a mother obeys the father in the home.
The study looks at the ACE science curriculum with its emphasis on creation "science". Following are some examples of what the study refers to as "... lack of objectivity, the corresponding creation science bias and the lack of problem solving in the reading comprehension approach to PACE work". The following example of creation "science" bias is taken from a Year 10 biology PACE:
Charles Darwin is one of the most important figures in the history of science. He observed facts and speculated about them. His ideas were wrong for the most part, but they have been accepted by many scientists. Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean. He noted the unique forms of life existing there and formed his theory of natural selection - that "Nature" selects for survival the creatures that have the most adaptable organs. This theory is commonly called evolution ... Remember the Bible is completely against any such theory. Evolution claims that man arose through a series of random changes. This theory leaves no room for man's responsibility or man's sin. If evolution were true, no man would be born a sinner because Adam would never have fallen and committed the original sin of disobedience to God. If evolution were true, Christ would not have needed to die for sin.
There is only limited recognition of accepted scientific methods in ACE "science" but students are required to test its veracity on the basis of its compatibility with the Bible:
Science is defined as a search for principles of God's creation based upon reproducible experiments ... We should always subject a principle to the test of the Bible.
The report concludes by claiming that students completing ACE schooling lack the appropriate knowledge, values and skills to enable them to participate in Australian society. Though the authors call for intervention by the state in those schools teaching the ACE curriculum, they put forward the view that such intervention may be difficult. It would need to be conducted through the courts, and establishing deficiencies in a curriculum based on "pro-family", "pro-free enterprise" and "anti-secular humanism" sentiments, given the trend toward rightist educational policies which are gaining increasing favour in capitalist countries throughout the world, would mean that any legal debate would be protracted.
This report emphasises the insidious nature of creation "science" teachings and the dangers it poses to the education of many of our children. To put it succinctly, children subjected to this form of teaching would be taught that the Bible is literally true and that soundly based scientific fact, should it not accord with the biblical interpretation, can suddenly cease to be fact. They would be confused when confronted with myth masquerading as science. This of course would be tantamount to a return to the dark ages. Children should be encouraged to be curious - to use their curiosity to arrive at the facts of a matter by rational deduction. Any attempt to indoctrinate children with false assumptions based on the unscientific hypotheses of creationism would be a tragedy.
I urge those who may be tempted to flirt with the simplistic theories of the creationists to examine their evidence with the utmost caution and be aware that an immense body of established scientific fact exists which easily refutes the creation myth.