In what is being considered a secular victory, the British government has banned the teaching of creationism as science in all free schools and academies in the country. The government released a new compilation of funding agreements earlier this month, including clauses that specifically prohibit pseudoscience, defining 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.” The agreement also specifies that the idea of creationism is rejected by the scientific community as well as mainstream churches.
“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 requirement on every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in any case prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school,” the agreement states.
The victory is a significant one, especially for those seeking science classrooms independent of religion. The British Humanist Association that has been campaigning for this change since 2011 congratulated the government for taking this decision.
“[We] believe that... the objectives of the campaign are largely met… However, there are other ongoing areas of concern, for example the large number of state financed creationist nurseries, or the inadequate inspection of private creationist schools, and continued vigilance is needed in the state-funded sector. We will continue to work for reform in the remaining areas, but are pleased that the vast majority of issues are now dealt with,” said Pavan Dhaliwal, BHA Head of Public Affairs.
The move is a striking contrast to whatever has been happening in schools stateside. Earlier this year, media reports suggested that private schools funded by taxpayers 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.K., all free schools and academies are required to offer a broad and balanced curriculum in their funding agreement. Since, creationism is incompatible with this requirement, it automatically cannot be taught to students as a scientific theory. The decision to have creationism banned in free schools and academies was reached after an arduous campaign by secularists who succeeded in having the subject banned in all free schools, stand-alone academies as well as multi-academy trusts.
In 2012, the British government had banned all future free schools from teaching creationism and asked them to teach natural selection instead. However, the rule did not apply to academies or existing free schools. The latest change means that all public-funded schools, existing or upcoming, will be barred from teaching creationism as an evidence-based theory.