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Are science teachers bending the truth with children these days?
Professor Richard Dawkins, who holds the chair for the public understanding of science at Oxford says that teachers are bending over backwards to ‘respect’ home prejudices that children have been brought up with,” he says . “The government could do more, but it doesn’t want to because it is fanatical about multi-culturalism and the need to ‘respect’ the different ‘traditions’ from which these children come. The government – particularly under Tony Blair – thinks it is wonderful to have children brought up with their traditional religions. I call it brainwashing.”
Islam is importing creationism into this country,” he says. “Most devout Muslims are creationists – so when you go to schools, there are a large number of children of Islamic parents who trot out what they have been taught.”
Cowardice is at the root of the problem, he feels. When it comes to presenting the truth of science against the “mythology” of religion, science teachers duck the issue for fear of reprimand. And not only from evangelical Christians. In his view, devout Muslims are a large part of the problem.
It seems as though teachers are terribly frightened of being thought racist,” says Dawkins. “It’s almost impossible to say anything against Islam in this country, because [if you do] you are accused of being racist or Islamophobic.”
asked in Religions, schools, teaching

KentPDG answers:

I suspect that, in today's world, you may be risking assassination by espousing such views.

No, it is not "brainwashing" to have children brought up with their family's traditional religion. Nor is it harmful to teach children beliefs that are at odds with science. As much as I respect scientific thinking and the truths science has revealed, I respect also the right of people to adhere to other patterns of belief.

Of course Islamic beliefs differ, in some ways, from Christian beliefs. That is true of all other religions also. That is what makes one religion different from another -- the things they believe in.

Just that someone's beliefs differ from the more widely held Christian beliefs is no justification for banning them as "mythology". Christianity has plenty of its own non-scientific "mythology".

It is perfectly appropriate for children to bring their family's traditional beliefs to school, and to question why science or history or anything else taught in school may have answers or assertions that differ from their beliefs. The purpose of school is not to discredit the belief patterns that people hold. It is to present facts and information that will broaden one's understanding of life, the world, and the universe.

The unwillingness to challenge and discredit the beliefs of other people is not cowardice. It is respect, for the right of other people to hold to their beliefs, regardless of whether you agree with those beliefs.

Refusing to listen to the beliefs of others is not standing up for truth. It is intolerance. The professors are not frightened of being thought racist or Islamophobic. They are quite rightly refusing to get into debates over the relative merits of religious and scientific beliefs.

In other words, it is not up to the professors to "prove" that science is correct, and Islam is wrong. Their duty is to show what science has discovered, and the reasons why many (or most) people believe those things.

When the professors are challenged, for example by devout Muslims, that the teachings of Islam differ or contradict the teachings of science, the professors should not enter into a dispute, nor deny the right of the students to believe differently or to say what they believe. The professors should merely say "This is what science has discovered, and there are sound reasons for believing it is so. If you choose to believe differently, that is your right; but you should not try to deny the rest of us the right to believe in what science has learned."

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The most important point is that the child is given a broad, liberal education in which to ultimately come to their own conclusions and beliefs. Dogma, fanaticism and irrationality exist on all sides of this debate. Dawkins is as devout and fundamentalist in his beliefs as any Jihadist or right wing fundamental lunatic. I fear Soviet style aetheists more than many theocracies, just look at Albania and the former Soviet Union. Mr Dawkins would be packing the career Gulags given half a chance. What youngsters need is intelligent, informed debate. The truth can defend itself. Science only explains the physical universe the metaphysical one is still defying explanation. Finally, if you tell children that we are just animals, why are we surprised when they start acting like it?

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Theminxy1 answers:

As a teacher, I can only say that, yes, it is a worry that we have to watch what we say so often. However, children do indeed need to understand a broad range of views if they are to meet the challenges of living in a multicultural society.

I always try to make sure that when I'm teaching something that could prove to be a sensitive subject, I make it very clear that I am just presenting a differing view to the children's, and I encourage them to explain how and why their own views differ.

I never, ever, discuss my own views with the children.

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natwarmer answers:

There is so much that cannot be said. May I say this next? For long time I've wanted to see Haworth where the Brontes were raised and wrote. More than any spot on the globe. It's where I long to go and involuntarily genuflect. I met a person whose home is in the North of England. *No! You're from Bronte territory!* He looked at me kind of blankly. I am the only Fanatic about their childhoods I ever meet so I was not surprised at this reaction. But may I say he said *It's all Pakastanis up there now -- it's not like the way you're probably expecting* There, I said it. Does it make me anything *phobic*? Spose so, if I add that it did blur the image I had.

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