Romania struggling against the forces of ignorance

Everyone was so impressed with this clear-thinking Romanian woman whose video I posted last week — from that alone you might get the impression that Romania is a very rational place, full of level-headed smart people who have little truck with religious silliness.

To correct that, you should read the web page of the Romanian Humanist Association, which is fighting a tide of state-sanctioned nonsense rising in their educational system.

They have posted a brief education of some of the educational standards endorsed by the ministry of education. They are teaching creationism in the classroom and in their textbooks! For instance, one of their textbooks has a section that presents a day-age version of Genesis, illustrating each of the ‘days’ of Genesis and pretending to correlate them with the scientific evidence (they don’t line up, no matter how hard you try; the sloppy folk taxonomy of the Bible cannot be made to correspond to any pattern of evolutionary ancestry or the evidence of the fossil record).

They have two exercises described. One is to regurgitate the Genesis sequence alongside the scientific evidence, as if they have parity. The other is to have a classroom debate, splitting the class in two with one side taking the scientific view and the other the theological position.

This is very bad pedagogy. In a science class, you have to approach everything from the perspective of the material evidence, the observations and experiments that lead to a reasonable conclusion. The theologians have none, so this exercise has only two possible results: you either put half your class into the position of being humiliating failures for an hour, or you have to cripple the scientific side so much in order to give both an equal chance that you’ve compromised on the scientific instruction.

Both are bad. I’d never do such a thing to my students; my struggle has always been to give the creationist students enough shelter that they can freely express their ideas (where they can then be examined and corrected) without being eaten alive by the majority of students in the class. You do not ever elevate wrong ideas to equal status with good ones, and you also do nothing to turn students in your class into punching bags!

This is what the religious influence on the Romanian government has done, though: the theologians are cheerfully pushing superstition into the science classes, and no doubt expecting that these bad ideas will be treated deferentially. It’s good to see the Romanian Humanist Association fighting back, at least.