Opinion: Creationism has no place in our schools

Nick Cater, a consultant and writer, catercharity@yahoo.co.uk

With all the controversy about the alleged role of traditional Islamic schools, or madrassas, in fostering extremism, should the Government and taxpayers be subsidising fundamentalist religious groups that want to influence the education of children towards the furthest reaches of faith?

I'm referring neither to Islam nor any smaller or less accepted sects.

Instead, my worries sit with the new Christianity and its big-bucks backing from a millionaire car salesman, Sir Peter Vardy, who likes nothing better than establishing schools that include in their religious education curriculum teaching that is at best neutral about creationism.

If a powerful man was doing this with his own money to create new evangelical Christian schools and attracting like-minded parents to enter their children, I would have fewer concerns - providing all the usual quality checks were observed.

But, and it's a big but, this initiative is under the direction of Vardy's Emmanuel Schools Foundation, with other wealthy individuals and faith charities keen to follow, and the schools are either existing local comprehensives handed over by the Government with little or no compensation for previous costs, or newly built establishments with massive state subsidies.

So the Government dumps valuable assets, local parents get less choice, a controversial decision is sweetened with taxpayers' cash and the unpleasant aura of charity and philanthropy being used as Trojan horses for personal and religious motives hangs over these deals like the drifting smoke from a BSE cattle-burning dump.

We have seen before that some charities cannot be trusted with education.

Of course, the scandal among top public schools was merely about Mammon and not God - they were fixing prices to exploit the market at the multi-million pound expense of taxpayers.

Clearly, public schools that collude over prices should fail any public benefit test. But any charity using education to give credence to creationism is equally against the public's benefit in today's sensible, secular Britain.

Why should it hold charitable status when it deals in myths, mysticism and manipulation of evidence?

Amid much that is bizarre about creationism, the strangest facet is that those who deny evolution and refuse to believe we are all apes with iPods seem to persist in their stance even though the behaviour of children in our classrooms sometimes resembles that of howling monkeys.

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