If you were to walk into some classrooms in Australia and even in much of the Western world, you could be forgiven for thinking that we weren’t already in the age of science education even though we are supposed to be and have supposed to have been for many years now. In primary schools, in particular, there seems to be an unspoken air that science takes the backseat and will always play second fiddle to other subjects. If only the same time and hard work was put into finding ways to keep children engaged in the science lesson as it is into non-curricular activities such as assembly practice, end of school play rehearsals, making Christmas cards, Easter cards, Mother’s Day cards, Father’s Day cards or gifts, or extra time taken out of the school timetable for sports-day practice, interschool carnival practice, incursions and excursions, etc. The list is almost endless, and if you walk into any school staffroom, you’ll see the term planer is full of days where students will be taken away from their normal lesson activities and studies.
Too often these activities are taken up at the expense of either science or math lessons and many teachers will agree that these are the first lessons to be scrubbed from the timetable to make way for extra activities that have to be fitted in — activities that have very little, if any, educational benefits that the students. At best, the crafts and construction activities that I have listed above should fall into an art lesson, and any extra sports practice should be fitted into the sports lesson. A school should not expect a teacher to give up what she is supposed to be there to do, and be paid for, which is actually to educate the students.
One of my main underlying gripes that you will see crop up in posts throughout this website is the quality of science education in primary schools in general which is a reflection of the abilities and capabilities of the general primary teacher who doesn’t seem afraid to tell you that science is not their favourite subject. When students are already faced with this barrier of a teacher not confident enough to teach the subject, or not given the extra support or tools to help to teach the subject, taking away ANY valuable lesson time by having in the external influence on the lesson can only be to the student’s detriment. One of these external influences is the battle that a lot of teachers face while trying to teach science, that of the teacher’s personal beliefs or the beliefs of those above her head that shed influence on the lesson. I’m talking namely about religion. In a country where there is supposed to be a separation of church and state, it amazes me that religion still finds a backdoor into many schools across Australia. I’m not talking about specific religious schools here, like Catholic schools or Christian schools, I’m talking about government run, state-funded, schools. The YouthCare programme and the chaplaincy program are already firmly wedged in many schools, and they have absolutely no reason to be there. The other way that I see religion being a hindrance in schools across Australia comes from the teachers, or even worse the principals, personal beliefs and influence. I have seen time and time again where a religious principal in a school exerts a major influence on the rest of the teaching staff to have religious activities taught in school or at least to have an atmosphere of belief rather than fact as the driving force for education. In a system where there is always a teacher looking for a job, you can see why they wouldn’t want to risk losing their job.
If there is one place that religion has no right to be, it is inside a school. A school is a place for truth and fact, and no classroom where that should be more apparent is the science classroom. If you find yourself in a science class as a teacher and you have an instruction from above, that tells you that you should also be teaching the alternative idea of creation then it is time to get the education department involved at the least. Regardless of this, you have every right to refuse to teach creation in a science classroom. In fact, you don’t just have a right to refuse to teach it; you have a moral duty and an obligation to your students not to teach it. But if YOU are the person who thinks it’s okay to teach an alternative to evolution and science fact in your science classroom, then you seriously need to consider your future as a teacher and realise that you are doing the students and massive injustice. It’s okay to talk about myths and stories in an English lesson or a history lesson, but a science room is the place for facts, truth and evidence-based research.