Disappointing news from Scotland

12.18.2014

Flag-map of Scotland via Wikimedia Commons

The Scottish government rejected the proposal to ban the teaching of creationism in publicly funded schools in Scotland, according to the Glasgow Herald (December 16, 2014). The head of Curriculum Unit at the Learning Directorate told the newspaper, "I can ... confirm that there are no plans to issue guidance to schools or education authorities to prevent the presentation of creationism, intelligent design or similar doctrines by teachers or school visitors. The evidence available suggests that guidance on these matters is unnecessary."

As NCSE previously reported, the Scottish Secular Society filed a petition with the Scottish parliament, calling (PDF) for a ban on "the presentation in Scottish publicly funded schools of separate creation and of Young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution, common descent, and deep time," adding, "Nothing in this request precludes the discussion of such doctrines in their proper place, as part of the study of ideas, neither does it nor can it infringe on individual freedom of belief."

Part of the impetus for the petition was recent creationist incursions into the Scottish classroom. In 2013, for example, as the Telegraph (September 13, 2013) reported, it was discovered that a school chaplain in East Kilbride distributed creationist literature calling evolution a myth. The petitioners fear that such incidents may have been just the tip of the iceberg. As the Reverend Michael Roberts told (PDF) the parliament, "It is almost impossible to determine the extent to which such creationism has influenced classroom teaching."

The petition received a hearing before a parliamentary committee on November 11, 2014; among the organizations submitting written testimony was NCSE, which in a November 7, 2014, letter (PDF) expressed its support for the proposed ban. The committee agreed to write to the Scottish government as well as the Educational Institute of Scotland, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, and the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, to receive their views on the matter. 

The Scottish Secular Society expressed disappointment with the government's response in a December 16, 2014, press release. "The government's submission is not only disappointing but at the same time short sighted and evasive, and fails to recognise the issue," Spencer Fildes commented. "It would seem they are willing to openly endorse the teaching and discussion of Creationism in what they call 'context'; but are unwilling to explicitly state it is forbidden even in the science class."