Outcry at creationism in UK schools

The Guardian (England), May 12, 2003
http://www.guardian.co.uk/

The Vardy Foundation’s announcement that it is to open six new schools has sparked fresh debate over the teaching of creationism. Evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins called the plans ‘educational debauchery’

Why is Dawkins worried?
The foundation already runs Emmanuel College, one of the north-east’s best state schools, in terms of exam results. But the Gateshead school, which opened in 1990, has been dogged with controversy because its pupils are taught biblical creationism… alongside evolutionary theory.
Neal Smith in the Newcastle Journal, April 29

Who heads the foundation?
Sir Peter Vardy, a multimillionaire car dealer and creationist evangelist… who has a personal fortune of £75m… [Sir Peter] is keen to help the government in creating city academies.
From the Sunday Times, March 17 2002

And he is planning more?
In 2000 he offered £12m to support the government’s city academies programme, in which business sponsors provide between 10% and 20% of the cost of building schools with the aim of raising educational achievements in deprived inner-city areas… The sponsor is given control over what, in effect, becomes a state-funded independent school… The King’s Academy will open in Middlesbrough in September and the Doncaster academy… will open in 2005 if a proposal under government consideration is approved.
Andrew Norfolk in the Times, April 28

Who is worried about creationism in schools?
Leading clerics and scientists… led by the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, and… Richard Dawkins, have called on Tony Blair to monitor school curricula strictly. The group, which also includes Sir David Attenborough, believes a too-literal reading of the Bible undermines scientific teaching.
From the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, April 10 2002

What is the official requirement on teaching evolution?
The national curriculum requires that Darwinian evolution is put across as the dominant scientific theory but also requires that pupils are taught “how scientific controversies can result from different ways of interpreting empirical data”.
From BBC News Online, April 28

Is creationism more popular in the US?
A recent survey by Scientific American revealed that… 45% of Americans… believe God created life some time in the past 10,000 years, despite research that has established the universe as 13bn years old and that [humans] are descended from ape-like ancestors.
From the Observer, March 17 2002

But teaching creationism is illegal in US schools?
Though the supreme court outlawed the teaching of creationism in [state] schools 15 years ago, that hasn’t stopped school boards from finding creative ways to smuggle it into the classroom. In August [last year], Georgia’s Cobb County school district voted to give students equal instruction in evolution and its biblical alternatives. For two years, until a state school board overturned the policy in 2001, students in Kansas weren’t required to study evolution at all. And [last October] the state of Ohio adopted science standards that critics worry make it all too easy to incorporate “intelligent design” [ID]… into the curriculum.
Emily Eakin in the New York Times, November 30 2002

What is ID?
This is the notion that organisms are too complicated and too improbably well adapted to their various niches to have formed by chancy Darwinian evolution alone. Somewhere, somehow, some sort of designing force – God, perhaps – intervened to give natural selection a hand. Many fans of ID concede that the Earth is billions of years old and that humans and apes share a common ancestor.
New Scientist, September 28 2002

Does the US government accept creationism?
The ID proponents got their way, thanks partly to wording in President Bush’s new education bill… US scientists say [this is] indicative of a new climate that has emerged under the Bush administration: one driven… by a fiercely moral approach to the business of science.
Oliver Burkeman and Alok Jha in the Guardian, April 10

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