Every now and again I hop over to the Answers in Genesiss website to see what kooky claims they’ve rolled out recently, and today a link under the “Store” heading caught my eye. The link read Biology 101 – DVD Curriculum, and such a title would seem innocuous until you actually had a look at some of the sample pages (warning: PDF file). I may not know much about botany, but I know enough about basic biology to understand how this “textbook” is absolutely insane and I really hope children who use this book do not get credit for using it in their homeschooling. While the $70(!) set does not seem to be sold as actual accredited homeschooling material, the AiG profile for the product claims “A 12-page “Course Accreditation Program” is included for homeschool families and others who want a year-long biology course,” but I have no idea how to check accredited works for homeschoolers and I’m not about to shell out $70 to find out. In any event, the sample PDF pages are nothing more than bulleted lists with some free Microsoft clipart spread about, starting off (of course) with how all plants were created on the 3rd day of a literal Creation week. This isn’t anything new, and I could certainly spend lots of time going over all the stupid mistakes in the work, but what stuck out at me the most was the absolutely idiotic inclusion of Fungi within Nonvascular Plants! I guess it doesn’t matter to the authors that Fungi belong to an entirely different Kingdom than the Kingdom Plantae, the writers explaining this issue by claiming that since Fungi were made on Day 3 (where this is in the Bible, I have no idea) and lack the nephesh sort of life found in higher animals, then it’s acceptable to group them with nonvascular plants, and that only “some scientists removed them from the plant kingdom.”
While I have no idea how many people are going to buy this book or ones like it, the things that students are able to get credit for in a homeschool environment is, at times, incredibly dumbfounding. There have been varying estimates about homeschooling in the United States, but according to the Wikipedia entry on the subject, two 2003 surveys found that 33% (U.S. Census) to 72% (Department of Education) cited “religious or moral instruction” as a primary reason for homeschooling their children, the last estimate from the US Dept. of Education in 2003 citing 1.1 million children in the US being homeschooled. The disturbing documentary Jesus Camp gives us a peek into what can pas for a science curriculum in such settings, children watching creationism videos and affirming that global warming is merely an invention of the media.
I do not wish to paint all who were homeschooled with a wide brush; I would be off my rocker if I did. My wife was homeschooled in a Christian setting and she is the smartest person I know, and a family of Christians teaching their kids at home does not automatically mean they are creationists, AIDS-deniers, or anything else of that sort. Hell, given the sorry state of public education if I had kids right now I would homeschool them, especially since teachers started becoming so concerned with standardized test scores that they forgot how to actually enlighten their students. I actually went as far as getting an associate’s degree in 4-12 education and was utterly disgusted with the school systems in my area, and I hated every minute of it when I had to go through the system myself as a child. My point, however, is this. In the currently socio-political environment we live in, issues of scientific fact (like evolution, global warming, and whether Fungi are plants or not, apparently) often get blown up into social and political issues, making it easy for parents who have certain political views to indoctrinate their children into false ideologies, essentially cheating them of the truth. A child should learn math, grammar, spelling, etc. no matter where they get their education, but when a student is coming from a homeschool background into the public system (especially college), I think they should be rigorously tested on science, the one area that seems to piss people off in one way or another in history. I’m not saying if someone is a creationist they should be failed or not admitted to a university, but how we understand science has a lot to do with how we see the world and how we act in it; if you were raised not to believe in global warming because it’s a liberal conspiracy, are you going to care very much about the environment? Even beyond the social responsibility, what if a highschooler is fed this junk and then goes to college and has to take Biology 101. Are they going to pass the test on vascular vs non-vascular plants if they were taught fungi are plants that were made on Day 3 of creation? Such an embarrassing outcome is a result of the parents trying to shelter their children from what they feel is “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” but only end up shortchanging their kids and making it harder to succeed in basic science courses.
Like I’ve said before, I don’t consider all creationists to be stupid or ignorant, but often they are misguided and afraid; I feel sorry for them more than I am angry, mostly because I know they are people just like me and have strong convictions. Even so, there is no excuse for trying to protect a child from everything that seems vaguely threatening to an ideology, trying to change the history of nature itself so that they’ll never question Scriptural Authority.