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Creationism being taught in private schools thanks to $1 billion in taxpayer funds

Published time: March 24, 2014 20:01
AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

​An investigative report published Monday by Politico reveals that taxpayers in the United States will give nearly $1 billion this year to private schools that teach children creationism and discredit the theory of evolution.

Journalist Stephanie Simon of the Washington, DC-based publication wrote that hundreds of pages of course descriptions, textbooks and school websites were scoured to see what type of curriculum was being offered by private institutions that receive public subsidies.

According to Simon’s research, “many of these faith-based schools go beyond teaching the biblical story of the six days of creation as literal fact.” Instead, she wrote, “Their course materials nurture disdain of the secular world, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists.”

“They often distort basic facts about the scientific method — teaching, for instance, that theories such as evolution are by definition highly speculative because they haven’t been elevated to the status of ‘scientific law,’” she added.

In one instance, Simon cited a set of books that she said is popular in Christian schools across the country, but refers to evolution as “a wicked and vain philosophy.” In another, she said, students learn vocabulary by studying sentences such as “Many scientists today are Creationists,” referring to the Christian belief that a divine power created the Earth less than 10,000 years ago.

Simon wrote that a quarter of a million students across the US take advantage of taxpayer-funded vouchers and tax-credit scholarships — up around 30 percent from only four years ago — in order to go to private schools, including many that offer similar lesson plans. And at this rate, she wrote, some states are expected to see the amount of public subsidies going towards private education opportunities soar in the next few years. Florida, for instance, will see public subsidies rise from $286 million this year to $700 million in 2018, Simon wrote, as long as demand remains high in the Sunshine State.

The Politico reports claims that the nearly $1 billion amount worth of subsidies going to private and religious schools in 14 states across the country, and a study by science education activist Zack Kopplin has found that more than 300 creationist schools from coast-to-coast receive public funding.

Simon also acknowledged that efforts are underway in New York to have the state spend $150 million annually on private school subsidies, and US Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) has advocated for a consolidating dozens of federal learning programs into a single $24 billion program that could provide vouchers to low-income students whose parents want to send them to private schools but can’t afford to.

“It is my personal goal,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) said earlier this year, “that in 10 years, every child in America will have education opportunity through school choice no matter where they live.”

And according to Simon’s reporting, many parents of private school-educated children are perfectly happy that religion is prioritized over academics. In a student last year, the Friedman Foundation asked hundreds of families receiving tax-credit scholarships just in the state of Georgia why they chose a private school, and “Religious education” tied with “better education” as the most important answer, far above the other choices. Simon says near-identical polling has spawned similar results in other parts of the country.

At a widely-watched debate hosted last month between scientist and television personality Bill Nye and Creation Museum founder Ken Ham, Nye advocated for the need to more sound education programs in America, and said, “If we raise a generation of students (that is) scientifically illiterate, we’re not going to have the next iPhone, we’re not going to have the next innovation.”

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