School response on creationism, claims evolution ‘controversies’

Following a claim by a former pupil Mt Hobson Middle School that creationism had been taught in a science class in preference to evolution – see Claim of creationism taught in school linked to National – the school has responded, denying it.

NZH: Claim Simon Bridges’ sister teaching creationism

A former student at the school has told Newsroom that creationism was being taught in preference to evolution.

Alwyn Poole, a Villa Education Trust board member and principal of Mt Hobson Middle School, said Rachel O’Connor was a superb teacher and “very balanced and open in all that she presents”.

“The NZ curriculum is broad and designed brilliantly that way by the team that did it. Darwin himself would be very unhappy if the controversies, developments and unfinished business of his theories were not discussed. Everyone who actually knows the basics of science understands that it is built on profound discussion and reaches across broad disciplines. The student’s recollection of Mrs O’Connor’s statements and the ability to discuss are highly flawed”.

This still takes a swipe at evolution with “the controversies, developments and unfinished business of his theories”. A standard creationist tactic is to promote ‘the controversies’ of Darwin’s theory.

Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859 – that’s 159 years ago.

There has been a lot of scientific advances since then on evolution. It is not controversial any more. More is being added al the time to scientific knowledge and research continues, as is normal in science, but the scientific basics of evolution are as established as the basics of gravity.

And creationism keeps being rejected as science. Wikipedia:

The teaching of evolution in American secondary school biology classes was uncommon in most of the first half of the 20th century. The Scopes Trial decision of 1925 caused the subject to become very rare in American secondary biology textbooks for a generation, but it was gradually re-introduced later and became legally protected with the 1968 Epperson v. Arkansasdecision. Since then, the competing religious belief of creationism was legally disallowed in secondary school curricula in various decisions in the 1970s and 1980s, but it returned in pseudoscientific form as intelligent design (ID), to be excluded once again in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.

Simon Bridges, O’Connor’s brother, has cried foul over what he calls a ‘hit job’.

Bridges’ sister Rachel O’Connor, who is married to National MP Simon O’Connor, is a science teacher at Mt Hobson Middle School.

“It strikes me in terms of whoever’s involved, there’s a bit of a cheap political hit here. It’s a private Christian school. I don’t know the ins and outs of the rules on what should be taught but that school should be teaching the government curricular in this area. Everything I’ve seen and understand suggests they are.”

He said he believed in evolution but that had nothing to do with the issue. He would “absolutely not” talk to his sister about it.

Bridges said he didn’t know what his sister’s beliefs were but “she’s a New Zealander and she should be able to believe whatever she wants”.

Yes, she should be able to believe whatever she wants.

But what a science teacher teaches is a valid public issue, especially if evolution is promoted as a ‘controversy’ by the school, and if creationism is given more than a passing mention in science classes.

Claim of creationism taught in school linked to National

It is claimed that a school linked to National’s conference in the weekend, and with links to National MPs, has been teaching creationism in preference to evolution.

Newsroom: Creationism taught in science class

A former student of a Villa Education Trust private school claims creationism was taught as a preferred theory of how the world began in science classes he attended.

The student from Mt Hobson Middle School said Darwinism was taught as an unproven theory and students were shown a video purporting to show science had found proof of God’s existence.

His impression was the school backed the concept of creationism “100 percent”.

It’s a concern if any New Zealand school is promoting creationism – a belief system – over the science of evolution, especially in a science class.

The science teacher was Rachel O’Connor, sister of National Party leader Simon Bridges and wife of National MP Simon O’Connor.

That must be an embarassingly close connection for National.

The trust runs two private schools and two charter schools. Currently its charter schools, including one visited by National Party members yesterday, are in limbo waiting to hear if their application to transition to designated character schools will be approved.

It isn’t a great advertisement for charter/partnership schools either.

“They [O’Connor] said, we’re going to watch a video. They didn’t tell us anything about it, they just started showing it. What followed was a documentary of twisted quotes trying to prove how scientists had discovered God.

“I’m watching, thinking, hang on this is really weird. I respect anyone’s religious beliefs, I have no problem with that, but this is a science class.

“This felt really wrong to me. I do respect the process of science, for them to twist – really twist – these quotes, especially from Albert Einstein, someone loads of people, including myself really respect, it made me quite angry.”

Religious studies are expected and fine in a religious school, as long as parents know thaat’s what they are putting there children into.

But science classes should stick to science.