In both the local papers this week our MP Neil Carmichael writes a column about the importance of encouraging young people to take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
He says that “Too few students continue with STEM subjects through and beyond A level despite the career prospects and advantages that such subjects bring.”
This follows from his support of the local Festival of Manufacturing and Engineering.
As an example of how important scientific research has been throughout history he cites Edward Jenner and his work on vaccination, and recommends visiting Jenner’s house at Berkeley not far from Stroud, which is now a museum.
He goes on to emphasise the importance of chemistry, physics and biology and says we must make sure we have the people to contribute to the new economy in our area where a number of firms are using cutting edge technologies. We need to “encourage existing firms and attract new ones to the area,” he says.
I couldn’t agree more, but I wonder if Mr Carmichael has considered the impact another Steiner school in the area will have on STEM subjects being studied in further education by young people locally?
He said previously that the free school “may well be a good thing”. This was some time ago and I hope since then our MP has had a chance to look at Steiner education in more detail, where he will find a distinct lack of enthusiasm for teaching science and IT.
Creation myths are taught in the main lesson as part of English and History, and Chemistry includes homeopathy. Biology is a chance to introduce Steiner’s view of human evolution, contradictory to Darwin’s, and Physics has a leaning towards Goethean science. Information Technology is viewed as a necessary evil – but then only for older children.
The overarching attitude to science is one where accepted theories are viewed with suspicion and children are subjected to “spiritual science” where Imagination and Intuition (with a capital “I”) are the order of the day.
As for the Jenner Museum, this will not be on the list of places to visit for Steiner families, since vaccination is a no-no in Steiner circles.
Mr Carmichael points out that in the current economic situation STEM subjects translate into jobs locally; surely a new school without the will to put these subjects high on their priority list makes no sense.
Apart from the clear waste of public money on providing a school where certain families can indulge in a lifestyle choice at tax-payers expense, it seems unfair on the children who will lose out by being subjected to this kind of education at the whim of their parents; A state-funded school should be one where children are guaranteed a sound education in all subjects, without the risk of religious dogma and pseudoscience spoiling their chances.
A Steiner free school would fail local children. It is just what Stroud doesn’t need.