2012-07-18

Expectationistry

Something odd going on at the UK's department of education. They're tweeting like crazy (perhaps I exaggerate), insisting that creationism cannot be taught as science in 'free' schools.

Free schools - or free-range schools if you prefer to think of education as a jolly romp through open cornfields under blue skies rather than the spike-fenced iron-trammelled roads of statist indoctrination - are largely (but by no means exclusively) religious, private, often quite expensive.

They're saying that this is because it's not allowed in state schools, and this is how they're saying it:

@educationgovuk: Let's be clear about creationism in free schools. No state-funded school is allowed to use science lessons to teach creationism as fact

I suppose warning bells should be ringing here. Advertised as a statement about creationism in free schools, the tweet veers into the arena of state schools. OK, perhaps a little careless. Let's try another.

@educationgovuk: It is absolutely not true that free schools will be able to teach creationism as scientific fact. No state school can.

A pretty authoritative statement there. No beating about the bush. Clarity! Good for them. The link will doubtless connect what happens in state schools with what happens in free ones.

The trouble is that it doesn't. The bit.ly jobbie in the above - a FAQ (not even an official policy document) - says, with regard to creationism:

[Q] Are Free Schools permitted to teach creationism/intelligent design and obliged to teach evolution?
[A] We would expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any science curriculum. We do not expect creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas to be taught as valid scientific theories in any state funded school.

So, basically, two questions there to which the answers are, respectively, yes and no.

As anyone can see, the reference they cite is somewhat woolly with regard to what is and what is not permitted as state education. It doesn't at all prevent C/ID being taught as valid scientific theories in state schools. And it doesn't force evolution on the poor little tykes coralled into those ungodly science classes either. The DoE just expect things to work out.

So their tweet 'no state school can' isn't backed up by their reference. Nor is there any hint that what happens in state schools can, in any case, dictate the free school agenda.

But wait - maybe we've just got the authority in this scenario all wrong. Maybe the FAQ on the Department of Education's website isn't the de facto authority. Is the Tweet Division the real power in the DoE?

I suppose it's possible that what they tweet overrides anything they write in traditional documents. But perhaps they should make that clear to the world at large.

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