The brouhaha over charter schools (called Partnership Schools in New Zealand) is merrily spewing forth ash clouds reminiscent of the recent eruption at Mount Tongariro. We have had one Robin Duff, head of a teachers union protesting the very idea that tax payers' money would be used to fund a school which taught the biblical doctrine of creation.
The Post Primary Teachers Association has concerns about public money funding religious activities in schools, and president Robin Duff said the types of people who appeared to be interested in charter schools, would not have made it through teacher education. "In the case of the trust, we'd be concerned if an organisation with a ‘statement of faith' that denies evolution and claims creation according to the Bible is a historical event, were to receive state-funding."This sounds horrendous. Robby's problem is that creation is "unscientific". He lambasts those who would teach children fairy stories and myths in place of good old hard science. And to add insult to injury, the gummint is going to fund it.
"Given the criticism of public schools over the quality of science teaching, you'd think they'd have concerns about taxpayer dollars being used to fund religious indoctrination rather than education, but apparently not."
Let's unpack the spleen, bit by bit.
First, the issue of tax payers' money being used to fund such a monstrous myth. There is a wee bit of a problem here for old Robby. The problem lies in that it is tax payers' money. It is not Robby's little stash to fund the education establishment of which his union and its members are dyed-in-the-wool Neanderthal participants. Nor is it strictly the state's money. It is taxpayers' money--and being tax payers and voters parents have the original authority as to where and how that money should be disbursed. And lots of them are not to happy with Robby and his establishment.
Forgive our rashness, but we would like to remind old Robby that every parent or caregiver who chooses to send their kids to a Partnership School is also a taxpayer. They are currently being taxed to fund Robby's schools. However, their kids are not getting the kind of education in Robby's schools which they, the original authority over their children, prefer. They will have elected to send their kids to a Charter School, funded by them--the payers of the tax in the first place. They are choosing, in effect, how they want their taxes to be spent for their children.
Robby's umbrage boils down to this: he believes that he and his establishment cohorts have a prior right, a higher authority, than parents to decide how the taxes of parents should be spent. Why? Because Robby believes he knows best. How about that for chutzpah. Words and phrases like arrogance, paternalism, and plantation-owner mentality all spring to mind.
That's one dollop of spleen unpacked. It's a bit smelly--as in a rotten fishy odour. Here's another dollop: the allegation that the Christian doctrine of creation is unscientific.
Whoa. Back up the truck. What on earth does the term "scientific" denote? Traditionally and strictly it refers to a method of empirical investigation. The scientific method denotes empirical investigation of the material world through employing human sense data. Secondly, it denotes inductively moving from the data to hypotheses which attempt to explain why the data is the way it is. Thirdly, it denotes a rigorous testing of the hypothesis with further experimentation and observation to ascertain whether the hypothesis can continue to stand or fall.
The scientific method is the glory of scientific discipline. But unfortunately for Robby it is also its great limitation. The scientific method requires not just observation, but repeated testing of the observations. But doctrines of origins--of the beginning of the cosmos--are beyond the competency of the scientific method. Robby--along with the rest of us--weren't there.
So we are reduced to relying upon testimony from someone else about how the world came into existence. In our day we have two meta-theories of origins, both faith based. One is the Christian doctrine that God created the world in six days out of nothing. The other is that everything came into existence by chance. Robby believes the latter. He's a Big Banger.
OK, so which would make the better teacher of science? Robby or the Christian science teacher? Well, old Robby is going to stand in front of the kids and (were he candid and forthright) tell them about randomness and stochasticity and consequent doubt and uncertainty "ruling" the universe. He will speak about the openness of the universe. Anything is possible. Some bright sparks are going to realise that there are lots of holes in Robby's science.
Robby is also going to want to speak about natural laws and some of the kids are going to start to snicker. Robby is going to boast about the rigour of the scientific method and its focus upon the facts, just the facts. But some thoughtful kid will ask, Why would a contrary result falsify a hypothesis? Surely, contrary results would be the expected normal in a random universe? Duh.
An even brighter spark would suggest that all this business about the scientific tradition and its methods are just another attempt of the old to exert hegemony upon the young. Since Robby's science is based upon a doctrine of ultimate and final and perpetual and intrinsic randomness, its prescriptive methods and rules and procedures are just another social control mechanism, an attempt by Robby's generation to exercise arrogant control over young people.
Which school will teach science and its rigours and disciplines more effectively and powerfully and comprehensively, we ask? Robby's Big Banger Random School or the Christian School? No contest.
That's why Robby wants control of how education tax dollars are spent. Free and open competition of ideas and methods and approaches would create a little too much heat in his tiny kitchen. Over cooked spleen, anyone?