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← Scientists win place for evolution in primary schools

Scientists win place for evolution in primary schools - Comments

PERSON's Avatar Comment 1 by PERSON

About time.
But it's good that Labour did this before the Tories get in. It's an open question whether they would want to upset the fundie and fundie-influenced parts of their base (if they didn't, why wasn't it included in the original NC?). But removing it would create a very bad impression, not to mention widespread objection.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 13:35:00 UTC | #412226

phasmagigas's Avatar Comment 2 by phasmagigas

perhaps one of the reasons why so many fail to grasp evolutinary ideas as adults is precisely because they have had no explanations other than those given towards the end of the school years almost as a tag along topic in genetics (UK).

most people can at least add up and subtract and theres a good reason for that, hopefully they will also be able to actually know what evolution even is if taught early.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 13:44:00 UTC | #412227

Jeremy Nel's Avatar Comment 3 by Jeremy Nel

Wonderful news! A quick question: when do British scholars start to narrow down their subject choices?

In my country we all did "everything" in primary school, but we could eliminate some subjects after only the first year of high school. The result for me was that I did 6 months of high school biology - which astoundingly didn't include evolutionary theory at all. I was almost totally ignorant of it until I studied at university. (From then on I didn't look back, and I've more than made up for lost time!)

I ask because I think that evolution is both (i) one of the most important ideas in science and (ii) actually quite simple to understand in its basic form. Thus it should definitely be included at a stage before students can miss exposure to it by (accidentally) not choosing to do biology.

I also think a basic foundation could prove to be a nice bulwark against any later anti-evolution nonsense that children might come across.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 13:45:00 UTC | #412228

Inside centre's Avatar Comment 4 by Inside centre

This is good news. The the underlying evidence for evolution can be quite interesting to kids anyway so it makes sense to give them a start on this while they're young and enthusiastic. It's what religion has been doing for centuries.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 13:46:00 UTC | #412229

Ygern's Avatar Comment 5 by Ygern

I'm a little bit surprised it had to be lobbied for.
Imagine a headline that read:

"Mathematicians win place for addition in primary schools"

Great news though, and congratulations to all involved in this project.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 14:01:00 UTC | #412231

tobybarrett's Avatar Comment 6 by tobybarrett

Excellent news. Some schools, however, have been covering evolution anyway. My wife's primary did a whole term covering the topic to coincide with the Darwin anniversaries. This included a visit from a local natural historian, in character as Charles Darwin, explaining his findings on the Galapagos Islands. Another series of sessions covered discovering a new species on an island with the children making predictions as to how it would be adapted to its environment. By all accounts, a great success.

What next: a push to end compulsory Christian worship in UK Primary Schools? Thought not.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 14:01:00 UTC | #412232

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 7 by crookedshoes

But, ED BALLS? Really? ED BALLS the children's secretary...sounds vaguely catholic.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 14:10:00 UTC | #412233

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 8 by Sally Luxmoore

Thank... er... Goodness!

As tobybarrett has said, some schools and individual teachers have already been doing this. Even with very young children it is possible to explain that the Earth is very very old and that human beings are only late arrivals. All children are fascinated by dinosaurs and there are plenty of opportunities when talking about them to explain that there were no humans around at the time and that a lot happened in between.
There are plenty of well educated teachers who have been quietly doing their bit in this way.
Now, it will be possible to ensure that all children have the same opportunities to learn.

How is that insane Christian 'Academy' up north going to deal with this, I wonder? How do Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark fit in with what they're supposed to teach?

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 14:31:00 UTC | #412236

Rob Schneider's Avatar Comment 9 by Rob Schneider

jeremynel wrote:

Thus it should definitely be included at a stage before students can miss exposure to it by (accidentally) not choosing to do biology.

Even more important, IMO, is that young kids be exposed to a rigorously constructed, scientifically presented definition and course of study early in life to counter, or "inoculate against," the myriad mis-representations of the theory they will encounter from Creationists.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 14:50:00 UTC | #412237

DeusExNihilum's Avatar Comment 10 by DeusExNihilum

Excellent news! My primary school did not mention evolution at all when I was a wee boy, but we did pray and sing hymns everyday...I can only hope that future generations will express the exact opposite sentiment; that evolution was taught with great enthusiasm and prayer was not mentioned at all.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 14:56:00 UTC | #412239

Opisthokont's Avatar Comment 11 by Opisthokont

Just as important, at least from an American perspective, is the portrayal of evolution as solid science. The article gave no time to "dissenting voices", and thus neither the explicit impression that there is actually any scientific controversy over the fact of evolution, nor implicit validity to creationism. Of course, this is the British press, whose public is not as saturated with creatioinists as the American press, but it is still good to see.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 14:56:00 UTC | #412240

mixmastergaz's Avatar Comment 12 by mixmastergaz

I'm reminded of The Onion's scandalised "Are Facts Being Taught In Our Schools£" headline...

This is good news obviously. I also cannot recall being taught anything about evolution at school, and I would remember. But I do remember an R.E. teacher parading around in front us with a limp wrist in a homophobic parody of a gay man when he was supposed to be teaching us about safe sex. On the plus side he did show us how to put a condom onto a banana. Odd the things that stick in one's mind.

I'd be interested to see if there's any advice on how to deal with awkward questions regarding the incompatibility of evolution with Genesis. I do hope they don't allow the opt-out for the children of creationist parents that's curently permitted for R.E. classes.

Edit: For our next fight I propose the compulsory inclusion of 'critical thinking' in the curriculum.


Seriously! And his 2IC is affectionately known as Old Scrotum the wrinkled retainer. True story...

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 15:36:00 UTC | #412251

clunkclickeverytrip's Avatar Comment 13 by clunkclickeverytrip

That's great - I've been praying for this for ages.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 15:47:00 UTC | #412255

flying goose's Avatar Comment 14 by flying goose


For our next fight I propose the compulsory inclusion of 'critical thinking' in the curriculum.

To be honest, this is more important than the teaching of evolution, not that that is not important. But teaching children how to evaluate arguments put before them would have a much wider effect.

As to evolution, my seven year old hated science 'Its so boring,' until that is, she learn't all about a certain Mr Darwin last year. She was particular drawn to the fact that in him she had a fellow Salopian. (someone born in Shrewsbury).

Science is far more interesting now. Why they don't teach natural selection, I don't know, I was never taught the mechanics of it. I have 'The Blind Watchmaker' to thank for explaining that.

I don't think the reasons are religious though, certainly not in my school late 1970's early '80's. We don't have a religious right to appease here. No really we don't.

I can only think that some other ideology was at work, though I can't think what.

Put it this way I did not learn any grammar either, as you can see.

Or perhaps being in the 'B' stream didn't warrant giving you a proper education.


Mon, 09 Nov 2009 16:24:00 UTC | #412269

clunkclickeverytrip's Avatar Comment 15 by clunkclickeverytrip

OK - I gave my flippant comment but now my real thoughts. I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry and several years of research behind me, and still didn't realize the importance of evolutionary biology until I read TGD. So even someone like me with a career in science could miss the essence of where we come from, and I now know this is probably the most profound thing one could tell a young person as part of their education.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 16:37:00 UTC | #412272

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 16 by Dr. Strangegod


Mon, 09 Nov 2009 16:59:00 UTC | #412279

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 17 by Stafford Gordon

I'm amazed to learn that it isn't already on the National Curriculum; I assumed it must be!

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 17:46:00 UTC | #412289

PeterNoSaint's Avatar Comment 18 by PeterNoSaint

RE: Comment #430552 by PERSON on November 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm

>> "But it's good that Labour did this before the Tories get in. It's an open question whether they would want to upset the fundie and fundie-influenced parts of their base"

The British Conservative Party are not American Republicans.

If anything, it is New Labour who have been allowing religious fundamentalism to encroach into UK education by backing 'faith' schools, religiously funded 'city academies', and courting support from highly religious immigrant communities. Tony Blair's 'Faith Foundation' shows the true sympathies of one of the chief architects of New Labour.

Also happening on New Labour's watch is the financial sponsoring of various UK university groups or faculties by such organisations as the 'Templeton Foundation', or by wealthy Islamic patrons, for the dubious purposes of 'religious research' or 'promotion of religious understanding'.

New Labour's track record is religion-friendly. I would place little trust in their steering the UK away from increasing religious influence.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 17:47:00 UTC | #412290

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 19 by crookedshoes

I have been lobbying, here at my high school, to bring in Richard's "The Ancestor's Tale" and "The Greatest Show on Earth" as text books for a course entitled "Evolutionary Biology". So far unsuccessful. But, my fingers are crossed. i pitched it to our curriculum director. I also let him know that we should not call any class "BIOLOGY" any longer. Biology should simply be called "EVOLUTION" because that is what Biology is.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 17:50:00 UTC | #412292

Kmita's Avatar Comment 20 by Kmita

"The government is ready to put evolution on the primary curriculum for the first time after years of lobbying by senior scientists."

This first sentence felt very general. Here in the states the curriculum is determined by local government, not the federal government. After this first sentence my immediate thought was "WHERE is this?!". Then I checked where the article came from. Blasted brits... getting my hopes up.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 17:53:00 UTC | #412293

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 21 by Stafford Gordon

Sorry; I misunderstood; it is already on the Secondary Curriculum; this concerns Primary Schools only.

I was going to say! After all, this is Darwin's nation.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 17:55:00 UTC | #412295

Gruff Mckenzie's Avatar Comment 22 by Gruff Mckenzie

I teach primary, so bloody good news.
I have taught evolution specifically and always make sure the idea comes up somewhere in the year as we always inevitably cover growth, plants etc.
Also, I have a piccie of Darwin on my wall.

Unfortunately one of my colleagues is a denier (well ignorant)...this should fuel the conversation!

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 18:18:00 UTC | #412299

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 23 by SaintStephen

19. Comment #430619 by crookedshoes on November 9, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Sorry to lapse into the vernacular again, but that's fucking awesome, dude! Keep up the great, courageous work. Might have to get back into teaching me-self, soon -- the front line of battle.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 18:59:00 UTC | #412305

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 24 by Enlightenme..

Michael Reiss also signed the petition.

He who proposed that children should be taught only science for 37 years, giving time to consider the Theory of Evolution and all of its alternatives!


Mon, 09 Nov 2009 19:06:00 UTC | #412307

Stonyground's Avatar Comment 25 by Stonyground

I attended primary school in the late sixties and evolution was taught to us although it was the fact that animals changed over time rather than the actual mechanism that made it happen. Not only that it was taken as read that it was true, there was no "controversy" that I was aware of.

Religious education was also totally brilliant. There was no one in the school who was qualified to teach RE so once a week the local vicar would pay a visit. He seemed to think that the best way to bring young souls to Jesus was to make them copy out long passages in Latin. As you can probably imagine, it worked for me.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 19:11:00 UTC | #412309

phil rimmer's Avatar Comment 26 by phil rimmer

For mixmastergaz and fg and others concerned about teaching critical thinking-

Don't forget the philosophy for children movement, P4C. P4C builds strong roots for critical thinking, presenting children with the raw data of each others opinions and the task of finding a common way forward. Its results have been spectacularly good in the limited studies done, with reports of substantial general academic uplift from those schools adopting the program. Much more work is needed to validate the idea, but the P4C programs is out there being done in a few pioneering schools and just needs more pressure for more studies, to give others the confidence to adopt the program.

In the UK, teachers can go to-

and generally-

EDIT Brilliant news about evolution formally getting into primary education. Why did it take so long? FG may be right that it was not for overt religious reasons, but then for what reason?

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 20:47:00 UTC | #412329

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 27 by prolibertas

Every creationist argument I've ever heard has been based on completely wrong ideas of what evolutionary theory actually says, so if kids are taught what it says early on, then they won't fall for a creationist argument later.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 20:54:00 UTC | #412331

kev_s's Avatar Comment 28 by kev_s

Out-Jesuited it seems :-)

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 21:06:00 UTC | #412332

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 29 by InYourFaceNewYorker

So glad to hear that at least one place in the world came to its senses. It seems that when you wait until high school to teach evolution, you might as well be teaching calculus before teaching the basic 4 math operations...

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 22:02:00 UTC | #412343

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 30 by Mr DArcy

Like other posters, growing up here in Britain, I've never had a problem with ToE. I didn't know it was evolution, but we had the pre-cambrian with trilobites and then the cambrian with fish, amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, mammals. And that was at about age 8-9? No problem, it fitted the known facts. Trilobites died out but something else took their place. Another thing I remember was that whilst the amphibians ruled the animal kingdom, all those swamps and wet forests very nicely turned into the fossil fuels we love to burn so much these days.

As long as the confusionists don't get in the way, the basics of evolution are very simple.

Mon, 09 Nov 2009 22:47:00 UTC | #412353