The Inclusion of Science and Religion in a High School Curriculum

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We will be investigating an interesting topic, which is recently gaining popularity. Today, our topic is Science and Religion... When teaching the high school science curriculum, is mentioning Creationism an accurate act when teaching the topics of evolution and Big Bang as the life of origin? Or how should a teacher arrange the depth of this discussion in a classroom? We will be looking for answers today, right here at the Educational Professionals. According to study conducted by Emma Rowe, a senior lecturer at Deakin University, nearly thirty percent of all Australian schools and ninety four percent of private schools in Australia are religious schools (Rowe, 2017). Additionally, Christianity is the major religion with fifty eight percent (Rowe, 2017).In 1960s, an Australian federal government finding was introduced and this was the milestone of the increase in the number of private schools. Statistics show that the secondary school enrolmentsincreasedup to seventy six percent in 1975, and it is then reduced by five percent each decade since(Windle, 2017, p.175). Moreover, private secondary school enrolmentsis about forty percent of all secondary school enrolments in Australia (Rowe, 2017). The science curriculum, which is being taught to students nationally, asserts evolution, the conceptions related to the natural selection and the theory of Big Bang to enlighten the origin of life(Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, n.d.). Hence, the idea of teaching the relationship between science and religion was a long-running debate. However, this discussion sparked by a national-wide petition, which is created by Lawrence Krauss in 2017. The main purpose of this petition was to impede the federal government findings for schools that teach any form of creationism in Science lessons(Morris, 2017). Connell (2013, p.29) remarks that the religion is the source of moral and a cluster of values to explain the purpose of life. Therefore, the main features of people are commonly formed by religious doctrines (McGraw, 2017, p.244). In today’s Australia, according to statistics, sixty one percent of people are affiliated with Christianity(Gobby, 2017, p.12).

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Without a doubt, there will be certain religious students in authentic Australian classrooms (Connell, 2013, p.17). Therefore, should teachers not be conceding these students and making the education fair for all (Meadmore, 1999, p.2)? So, for this episode, I made an interview withtwo science teachers from both a private and a local government secondary school, to ask for their opinion on whether or not religion should be taught in the science classroom. Our first teacher is from a local government school and here is what she said: “In Science, we should not be teaching beliefs and religion-based topics. Science lessons should be based on evidence. Both Big Bang and evolution are theories based on imperial science data and that’s what we, science teachers, teach. In Science, something is measured and a model is made. If the model is flawed, it is redefined and this is why science is so powerful. If there is a mistake with the logic, it could be changed. For example, the simple idea behind Big Bang theory, as stated by Hawking, is the matter, that must have been at one spot once upon a time, is moving away. This is a basic model. However, the belief system is not compatible with Science, because beliefs do not change. Beliefs cannot be proven and because this is the opposite of Science, they shouldn’t be taught together.

The curriculum is clear on what needs to be taught. So, there should be a clear discussion of what science is and what a belief is in the classroom. As teachers are to help students grow up to be individuals, who think, search for evidence and make their own decision. This is usually the opposite of most beliefs, as usually believes have to be followed without question and questions upset a fixed view or belief. For example, I wouldn’t want students to argue with a fixed point in a classroom. Therefore, two different areas should not be discussed together and should be taught separately. Hence, the Science curriculum would be taught effectively and there won’t be a clash between students who think differently.” Teachers have great effects on shaping students’ world by implementing the intended curriculum and teaching the hidden curriculum (Pearce, 2017, p.199). These effects on student’s life occur within afriendly and supportive classroom environment in which the teacher presents the topic (McGregor & Mills, 2017, p.381). If the curriculum is not attractive enough, contains limited aspects of the topic being taught or does not connect with students, who have different ideas on the topic(Pearce, 2017, p.209), it is likely for studentstofeel isolated and disconnected from the topic(McGregor & Mills, 2017, p.383). Nevertheless, it is difficult to represent the diversity in the curriculum(Gobby, 2017, p.12), as all students in authentic Australian classrooms must have the right to be educated without any form of discrimination(Sullivan, Perry and McConney, 2013, p.356). Our second teacher is from a local private school and here is what she said about teaching religion in the science lessons: “Yes, I taught in both state and privateschools for many years now. Ithink we wouldn’t be giving a good education, if wehide one side of an issue. Students need to be exposed to both sides to an issue, so they could think and decide. If creationism is being taught at a Christian school only, we would be providing a bad service, because when they meet the ideas of evolutionout of school, they have no way of thinking about it. This should be the same in state schools. Why hide a side anyway? If an idea or theory is strong, it should be able to stand against scrutiny or criticism. If evolution is an evidence-based theory, itshould be strong to face scrutiny. When I was in a state school, ideas of creationism were hidden so much that it was banned from schools.People thinkit is okay to discuss it in religion classes, but not in Science. I think, this is wrong. Evolution itself is an idea and it needs to stand up to criticism. If it cannot, maybe it is not a good and strong idea. We are trying to teach students to be critical thinkers. If we only show one side, their minds are not exposed to both sides of an issue. This means we are going against freedom of taught, freedom of choice and freedom of education.”In order to deliver the intended science curriculum, teachers need to think outside the box (Gobby, 2017, p.19).

Teachers have the power to decide how learning will take place (Gobby and Millei, 2017, p.37), so they do not just deliver the curriculum, they design it (Gobby, 2017, p.25). Therefore, the diversity of students must be recognised to implement effective teaching strategies (Connell, 2013, p.30). As expressed in Melbourne Declarationon Educational Goals for Young Australian (MCEETYA, 2008), one of our educational objectiveis to ensure that our schools contribute to a socially cohesive society that respects and appreciates cultural, social and religious diversities. On the other hand, promoting critical thinking and meaningful learning activities,which is provided by an emergent curriculum, is vital (McGregor& Mills, 2017, p.384). In addition, teachers need to be encouraged to be critically reflective to scrutinise on their teaching practice, because it is a must to develop effective teaching strategies to enhance student engagement, participation and motivation (Down, 2017). Science teachers need to provide more opportunities to discuss the topic from all points, including evolution and creationism, in order to achieve equity and fairness in education. Ruling out of different perspectives is the main barrier of building inclusive and respectful learning environment that embraces diversity (Cowlett and Niesche, 2017, p.368). Thank you for joining us this week.

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