Joel at Dembski’s Home for Wayward Sycophants has a loopy post about a report out of London that some teachers are avoiding controversial subjects like the holocaust and the crusades for fear of offending the sensibilities of some religious minorities. The government report out of England says:
“Staff may wish to avoid causing offence or appearing insensitive to individuals or groups in their classes. In particular settings, teachers of history are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship,” it concluded.
Joel is right to find this appalling, but his reasoning for doing so is simply bizarre. And he turns reality completely upside down in comparing this to teaching evolution:
It is disturbing that this is where education in the United Kingdom is heading. Teachers are encouraged to gloss over one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century because it might offend some people’s sensibilities or religious background. Though we have survivors, documented evidence, and hard proof that it occurred, educators do not wish to teach it because it might be offensive.
However, if you happen to believe that God created the world, or a deity of some sort, then please do not raise your voice in class. That is your opinion. They will not teach the Holocaust because it might offend a radical sect of the population – but they will teach Darwinian evolution even though the majority of the population does not accept it fully?
This shows that some educators are more willing to deny the Holocaust, or at least sweep it under a rug, than abandon Darwinian evolution. Is this a sign of things to come?
He has this precisely backwards. We have the same situation in the US, where surveys of science teachers have shown that a sizable percentage of them gloss over evolution, or don’t mention the term at all. Why? Precisely the same reason mentioned above, because it conflicts with the “highly contentious or charged versions of history in which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship” and is therefore too controversial.
They get tired of getting phone calls every semester from ignorant parents who think the world is 6000 years old and that Adam and Eve had a pet dinosaur. They get tired of being accused of “inculcating atheism” and of teaching things that will “send our children to hell.” What’s the difference between that and what is going on in England? Absolutely nothing.
Even weirder is Joel’s comment about a majority of the public not accepting evolution “fully.” Is he suggesting that if a majority of the public didn’t accept the holocaust “fully” that teachers would be justified in not teaching it? He seems to be making the argument that because the public doesn’t accept evolution, therefore schools shouldn’t teach it. In reality, that is all the more reason to teach it, and do a better job of doing so. The validity of evolution is no more determined by popular opinion than the reality of the holocaust.