Our straight talking Lancashire lass takes a sideways look at the daily news.
Stop teaching children bad science
Teachers have a responsibility to teach good science to children. This goes without saying. But reading the news today I wonder what is happening to that responsibility in some quarters.
As a teenager I was passionate about saving the rainforests. I was worried about global warming and wanted to save the whales. And so I asked my physics teacher Mr Cunningham about what we could to do help because I wanted to know more.
This fully qualified science teacher told me to stop going on about the environment because I was overreacting. And when I pointed out that trees suck up carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, he replied with the timeless statement: “Owen, what do you think the trees are replaced by? They are replaced by millions of blades of grass. Grass also produces oxygen so I think we’ll be fine.” Case closed. That day 24 teenagers got the message that global warming was a myth and the proven notion of biomass was bollocks.
The same teacher told me I’d never make it as a scientist. One degree in pharmacology and a MA in Biotechnological Law and Ethics later and I would beg to differ. Okay so I ended up in journalism, but that was through choice. I do have a reasonable grasp of science methinks.
And the way that science is taught in schools is close to my heart. Getting the principles and basics right allows children to build on that knowledge and ultimately make more sense of the world.
It’s not about being able to recite the Periodic table or understand the physics of why planes don’t drop out of the sky. Good science helps kids develop critical and analytical ways of thinking. They are taught to question everything – is it backed up with evidence? How reliable was the evidence? I think I’ll go produce some of my own evidence just to make sure!
And so to the point of today’s Daily Bite. A group of 30 scientists including Sir David Attenborough quite rightly are extremely concerned that creationism is still be taught as science in UK schools and are petitioning the government to put an end to it.
Creationism is the biblical tale of how God made the world in seven days, and during that time dropped Adam and Eve on Earth. And some publically funded schools are teaching this as a scientific alternative to evolution. The fact that successive governments have allowed this creep into the curriculum is gobsmacking.
Teaching children creationism as fact is like telling them that green is blue and the sky is edible. How can teaching religious parables as science benefit the children? Creationism has a place in the curriculum, and that place is religious studies.
Now I’m a practicing (extremely liberal) Catholic. Believe me I know about educational brainwashing. At 16 I knew little about any of the other religions but I knew all about the significance of wearing white on my wedding day. But at least they had the good grace to teach me proper science and not Intelligent Design.
However, that experience with Mr Cunningham affected me. He killed off some of that teenage passion I had for saving the environment. I reckoned if my science teacher felt that replacing ancient forests with grazing land for burgers was okay ethically and scientifically, then why bother.
That was nothing. In teaching creationism as a scientific fact I dread to think what the effect these Christian fundamentalist lunatics will have on the poor children who they get their claws into.
Why can they not look around them and realise that science and the world around us is miraculous as it is?