The official said,
Safeguards include; school managers having oversight of curriculum planning and resources; local authorities with robust complaints procedures, independent school inspections and the development of curriculum materials through a collegiate approach that provides for early identification of any inappropriate material.This seems like the proper approach to me. Governments can set up mechanisms to create standardized curricula and that should include descriptions of what should be taught in each grade. They can even pass a law saying that all schools have to adhere to the guidelines.
I don't think they should be responding to pressure groups that want to ban the teaching of certain subjects. Most of us would react strongly to any government that banned teaching of sex education, evolution, communism, Islamic culture, feminism, gun control, or post-modernism.2 We should also be wary of banning other subjects even though we are certain that they are wrong—subjects such as Young Earth Creationism. If you give politicians the right to ban teaching of certain subjects then don't be surprised if it backfires.
It's best not to give them that power in the first place but to rely instead on curricula and standards that are developed by educators and enforced by educators. Mistakes will be made but it's better in the long run to do it that way than to have education influenced by the power of lobbyists and pressure groups and petitions.
Jerry Coyne disagrees. He thinks that the Scottish government should have banned the teaching of creationism [Scotland refuses to ban teaching of creationism]. This is one of those issues where Jerry and I strongly disagree. He wants to fire teachers who teach creationism and he wants government to pass and enforce laws that prohibit the teaching of certain subjects.
Here's the letter he wrote to Fiona Robertson, the director of Scotland’s Learning Directorate.
Dear Ms. Robertson,I don't agree with Jerry Coyne. I'm all in favor of teaching evolution and proper science but I'm also in favor of teaching students why things like creationism, astrology, and homeopathy are wrong and why the Loch Ness monster doesn't exist.
As an American professor who teaches evolutionary biology, I was deeply disappointed to read in The Herald of Scotland that your country’s education directors refuse to ban the teaching of creationism to schoolchildren....
As the author of a popular book on the evidence for evolution (Why Evolution is True), I am fully aware of the massive evidence for evolution and the complete absence of evidence for any creationist views, which invariably stem from Biblical literalism. Creationism is thus a purely nonscientific view based on religion, and I’m saddened that Scotland won’t take even a minimal stand to ensure that its children are not indoctrinated with such bogus "science". The truth of evolution, I’ve found, is not only fascinating, based as it is on mountains of diverse but congruent evidence, but also deeply enlightening, showing us how our own species, and other species as well, came to be. It is the true story of our origins.
I hope that Scotland, like England and Wales, will have the resolve to explicitly establish some guidelines about what Tim Simmons, head of the Curriculum Unit, called "well-established science." Without an explicit statement that creationism is not well-established science, schools are at the mercy of whatever their teachers want to impart about the origins and diversity of organisms.
Thank you for your consideration.
Department of Ecology and Evolution
The University of Chicago
Chicago, IL 60637 USA
It's a bit ridiculous to pass laws banning the teaching of every single thing that "is not well-established science."
It's true that "schools are at the mercy of whatever their teachers want to impart" but the way to fix that problem is to change the views of society, and teachers, about evolution and creationism. There isn't much evidence that simply banning certain subjects will actually change whether students believe them or not. If that were true, then we would expect that the students of Dover Pennsylvania have now come to accept evolution and reject creationism.