Some might be surprised to hear that I’m actually in favor of this change in the British school standards:
Teenagers will be asked to debate intelligent design (ID) in their religious education classes and read texts by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins under new government guidelines.
In a move that is likely to spark controversy, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has for the first time recommended that pupils be taught about atheism and creationism in RE classes.
The all-important qualifying phrase is “in their religious education classes“. It’s not science, so I’ll always oppose the inclusion of ID in the science curriculum, but I think that exposure to religious beliefs in a critical and secular context is a very good idea. That they’ll also discuss atheism is a significant bonus.
I also wouldn’t mind if the US schools included a comparative religion requirement — as long as a comparative perspective were actually enforced, and they weren’t used to indoctrinate kids into specific faiths.
Here’s a short summary of the new standards:
Pupils will be expected to understand terms such as creation, God as creator of the universe, intelligent design, the Big Bang theory, the sacred story and purposeful design, as well as words that are specific to a religion, such as Bible, Rig Veda, and Qur’an.
The new guidelines for key stage 3 (11 to 14-year-olds), published yesterday, say: “This unit focuses on creation and origins of the universe and human life and the relationship between religion and science. It aims to deepen pupils’ awareness of ultimate questions through argument, discussion, debate and reflection and enable them to learn from a variety of ideas of religious traditions and other world views.
“It explores Christianity, Hinduism and Islam and also considers the perspective of those who do not believe there is a god (atheists). It considers beliefs and concepts related to authority, religion and science as well as expressions of spirituality.”
There would be an epidemic of Head-Asplodey Syndrome if such a course were taught in US schools, I fear.