Creationism? Crikey!

I thought it was only in the States where schools taught creationism in preference to evolution.

With the advent of Steiner Free schools, however, it seems that is going to be more and more common in this country.

The curriculum book used for science does not contain what most people would assume was being taught; This is from the British Humanist Association website in an article about Steiner education;

The Hereford Academy opened in 2008 and does not offer any science GCSEs, but instead pupils study a BTEC in Ecology Studies. The BHA was told that ‘The school implements its Curriculum through the schemes of work as detailed in The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum edited by Martyn Rawson and Tobias Richter.’ In one Life Science lesson, the book says that ‘Creation stories give an holistic image of the origins of the earth, plants, animals and human beings’. In another, it says that ‘The Darwinian mechanism delivers clarifying power within a certain range of phenomena, but it is rooted in reductionist thinking and Victorian ethics and young people need to emerge from school with a clear sense of its limits.’

If this kind of teaching is to be seen as acceptable, in an age when we are understanding more and more, and with great benefits as a result, it would be a huge step backwards.

Students need to have as full an understanding of the world around them as science can provide, and to have their interest in scientific progress encouraged, not hampered by the pseudo-scientific imaginings of a mystic from 100 years ago.

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8 comments

  1. Helen

    The Hereford Steiner Academy is state-funded. Their sponsor is the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship – that means it is established and managed by the SWSF.

  2. MarkH

    These passages from the Richter and Rawson curriculum book are worrying, although it seems only fair to point out that I’ve seen no evidence of creationism actually being taught in a Steiner science class. (Although the “holistic” curriculum and this encouragement from Richter and Rawson might well blur the lines between science and religious education.)

    The reaction of the acting principal at Hereford to this was interesting. He said: “It is not our aim to promote scientific orthodoxy, but rather to enable pupils to think and engage in independent verification of reality.” http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6290223

    Finally, I can’t resist referring to a Steiner science teacher training course that used to run at Wynstones school: http://www.sciencegroup.org.uk/scienctt.htm Perhaps it still does run? It started in 1986, so this has been going on for some time. The course assumes familiarity with anthroposophy and basic texts such as Steiner’s “Occult Science”. This book is freely available online. Anybody interested in the training required of Steiner teachers should look it up. Go on, I dare you. :-)

    • Helen

      In reply to your first point – it is difficult to know what goes on in a classroom without being there, but looking at the resources used by teachers is a clue, isn’t it?
      It is funny you mention “blurred lines”, because in the handbook for class teachers, in the “Morning lesson : Literature and literacy” section, there is this reminder;

      “N.B.: Literature is not a religion lesson. Steiner speaks of this theme as being the study of “classical literature alongside other classical literature.”

      The themes for this lesson are very specific;

      •Old testament from Creation and the fall of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Saul, David and Solomon
      •Specific stories for festivals, eg Tobias and the Angel, or Jonah (Easter) Elijah (midsummer)
      •Tales related to the farming, building and the crafts

      I don’t know if “the farming” and “the crafts” are what we would think naturally of or not, given the way words are often used with a different meaning in anthroposophy.

  3. MarkH

    Oh, the resources used by teachers are an immensely important part of the picture and the BHA were absolutely right to draw attention to them. Partly due to pressure from the BHA, the DfE added a clause to the funding agreement for new free schools that they should not teach any form of pseudo-science, including creationism. We can only hope that Ofsted pay particular attention to this requirement when inspecting the new Steiner free schools.

    • Jim

      My understanding is that Ofsted will not be inspecting Steiner Free Schools, instead it will be a special body “sensitive to the special ethic of such schools”. I’ve forgotten it’s name but I believe it is largely run by Steiner sympathisers.

      • MarkH

        The situation with inspections is complicated. The private Steiner schools are indeed inspected by a special body called the Schools Inspection Service. Of the recent inspection reports I’ve looked at in detail, the lead inspector is a retired Ofsted HMI (presumably doing it on a freelance basis). This is also sometimes true of the ISI who inspect mainstream private schools. They are accompanied by a lay inspector with strong links to the Steiner movement who specifically looks at the management of the school and its adherence to the Steiner ethos. Their inspection guidelines were worked out in collaboration with the SWSF. A few years ago, one of the directors of the SIS (and often then a lead inspector) was also a governor of Hereford Steiner Academy. So yes, it’s all a bit murky…

        If a Steiner person tells you that Ofsted and SIS are basically the same, don’t believe them. They’re not. The only other type of school the SIS inspect are the Plymouth Brethren schools – a very culturally isolated, cult-like Christian education. Make of that what you will.

        State funded Steiner schools (which means Hereford and the newly established free schools) are inspected by Ofsted. As is kindergarten/early years provision provided on site at the private schools. To my knowledge, Frome Steiner (which has been running for a year, the others for less) has not yet had a full inspection.

  4. eyesbeingopened

    I was in a charity shop today looking at books. It was interesting to note that they had organised the books by subject matter, so the categories included: Education / Teaching (which contained textbooks from various PGCE type courses etc), Spiritual (which contained the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad Gita and other religious books) and then there was a category called New Age/Occult/Steiner etc. Very telling!

    • Helen

      Aha! someone in that shop knows their stuff.
      If you ever see “Sun at Midnight” by Geoffrey Ahern, you should buy it as it has a good look at “The Rudolf Steiner Movement and the Western Esoteric Tradition”. It was recommended to me as a good way of finding out about anthroposophy from someone outside the movement. There is a new edition but it is not cheap.

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