Thursday, 29 July 2010

All aboard

Most people are well aware of the problem some parts of the United States have had with the teaching of Creationism in schools. It hasn't been a big issue here, really. But at the end of June, the Learning Outside the Classroom charity awarded its Quality Badge to a place near Bristol called Noah's Ark Zoo Farm. LOTC offers accreditation to visitor attractions and education centres that provide hands-on learning experiences outside of the school environment and doesn't appear to have any religious associations. The manifesto on their site is clear enough and it's a very positive idea - recommended resources for teachers, and so on.

A brief look through the Noah's Ark Zoo site shows that while they superficially purport to an open-minded approach to scientific education - on subjects like evolution, the origins of life and so on - there is a distinct and overt religious agenda. Were it not for this scientific subject matter and context, I wouldn't have a problem with the LOTC's endorsement. After some concerns were voiced by another accredited organisation, the LOTC remarked that they had also awarded the Quality Badge to a couple of religious groups. This evades the point that other groups were offering religious education rather than addressing matters scientific. Noah's Ark Zoo has a large model of the ark, showing giraffes next to Tyrannosaurus rex. And beside the monkey house is a board with the top ten reasons why monkeys are not like humans. Their website is packed with pages of material written specifically to refute the Theory of Evolution - laying bare the feeble claims of open-mindedness. There are a great many links to sister sites with even more bad science. Essentially, Noah's Ark Zoo is clearly providing a demonstrably inaccurate view of fundamentally (ha ha) important scientific topics. It's teaching WRONG STUFF to kiddywinkies. And that's a BAD THING which should not be encouraged, let alone endorsed by any level of educational establishment.

For the record, I believe there should be some level of religious education in (and in this case - out of) school, but that it should be objective and cover the basics of the history and tenets of the major faiths. It should not stray into areas it has no business.