Ken Ham (Reuters/John Sommers Ii)

Creationism in the classroom: Proposed vouchers could funnel more tax dollars to pseudo-science

A report from Politico shows the startling jump of public funds into private schools, and what some are teaching

Sarah Gray
March 26, 2014 2:30AM (UTC)

Creationists may not appear on Neil deGrasse Tyson's "Cosmos," but the religion-based pseudo-science is creeping into the classroom and we're funding it.

Public schools, which are funded by taxpayers, cannot teach creationism or intelligent design. Separation of church and state (a sadly dissolving boundary) still holds. But according to a startling and discomfiting report done by Politico almost 1 billion of taxpayer dollars across 14 states will go to private schools this year. Many of these schools, according to Politico, do more than just teach creationism, but actively deride modern science, scientists and mathematicians.


From Politico:

"A POLITICO review of hundreds of pages of course outlines, textbooks and school websites found that many of these faith-based schools go beyond teaching the biblical story of the six days of creation as literal fact. 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.'"

This creationist education, if you can all it that, spills into all subjects. Even math focuses on numbers found in the bible.

In 1993 there was only one state  with public subsidies for private schools. In 2013 there were 20 such states (a few of them are on hold pending investigation). Of course not every private school teaches creationism, but that is still a startling jump of public funding going to private institutions.


According to Politico this number could get higher. A whopping 26 states are considering introducing or expanding voucher programs. A popular program was just ruled constitutional in Arizona. According to Politico the program (proposed in eight states) would set up "individual bank accounts stocked with state funds that parents can spend not just on tuition but also on tutors or textbooks, both secular and religious."

Creationism taught in schools is just one piece of the voucher debate. Some argue that vouchers take much needed funds from public schools. Others say that vouchers are needed to help low-income students get better private education. And though it may seem to break the logical bounds of separating church and state, the Supreme Court upheld vouchers, even in the case of religious institutions, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris.

Despite the overall scope of the debate, pseudo-science taught in schools is an important one. According to a report released by the Pew Research Center in December of 2013, 33% of Americas -- yes that is a full third -- believe that humans have existed in present form since the very beginning of time. Creationism being taught as fact in leaves students with an ever narrowing view of the world -- one reduced to the scope a religious text. To quote Neil deGrasse Tyson:


“There is no example of someone reading their scripture and saying, ‘I have a prediction about the world that no one knows yet, because this gave me insight. Let’s go test that prediction,’ and have the prediction be correct.”

And this is costing us more than just our tax dollars. According to Time, "one international survey found American kids finishing 26th of 34 countries in math and 21st in science." More and more, today's jobs are requiring math and science skills. Yet students are rolling out of schools with not just a skewed understanding of these subjects, but the notion that scientists and mathematicians are wrong. And according to Politico's report, in some states, this education is tax-payer funded.

ht/ Politico

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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Creationism Innovation Private School Pseudo-science Religion

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