Cross-posted onto Young Australian Skeptics
Australia is in the process of creating a national curriculum, but the current draft of the history curriculum contains the following (emphasis added):
Students develop their historical skills in an investigation of TWO of the following controversial issues:
- human origins (e.g. Darwin’s theory of evolution and its critics)
- dating the past (e.g. radio-carbon dating, tracing human migrations using DNA)
- fakes and forgeries (e.g. Piltdown Man, the Treasure of Priam, Noah’s Ark, the Turin Shroud)
- the use and display of human remains (e.g. repatriation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human remains, The Iceman, Egyptian mummies, Lady Dai)
- imperialistic attitudes towards archaeological property (e.g. Indigenous cultural artefacts from around the world)
- the ownership of cultural property (e.g. the return of Parthenon sculptures)
- the impact of war and terrorism on antiquities (e.g. the Buddhas of Bamyan, the looting of Iraqi museums)
- political and ideological uses of archaeology (e.g. archaeology under the Nazis and Fascists)
- a school-developed study of a controversial issue.
Students examine the nature and context of the controversy, including:
- the historical background
- the extent of the controversy (media coverage, nationalistic feeling, government involvement) and significant developments relating to the controversy
- different perspectives and their bases
- an assessment of the different perspectives.
Now, in terms of say, science, those first two are roughly as historical “controversies” such as Velikovsky’s theories, or ancient astronauts. So why are there in the curriculum? Well, it looks pretty much like – actually, exactly like – the “teach the controversy” campaign aimed at teaching students falsehoods in the US. Now, the points each look like they’re perfectly reasonable, and the intention is that look perfectly reasonable – but they give a creationist teacher an opportunity to teach or reward blatant falsehoods. It’s then a lottery as to whether you get a history teacher with the necessary scientific knowledge to accurately assess technical details on radiocarbon dating, or one who repeats long-debunked nonsense.
There’s also the Piltdown man in there, and again, that could work, just as long as you don’t get a creationist teacher. It is in there with other hoaxes such as the various “findings” of Noah’s ark or the Turin shroud, and that’s something at least.
Furthermore, these are scientific topics – why would they be introduced into the history curriculum, instead of the science curriculum? Well, as PZ put it:
The science side of the debate has gotten hardened by repeated attacks, and is usually better prepared to resist the foolishness, so they switch targets and catch history or philosophy off guard. Every academic discipline is subject to this corruption.
However, in this case, there is something you can do. The draft curriculum is open for consultation. The creationist questions can be found here, under unit 2 (you’ll need to register first).
Hat-tip: PZ Myers
May 30, 2010 at 3:38 pm Comments (8)