Thursday, May 28, 2020
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Evolution, Darwin are not to be taught in Turkey

If anyone thought the teaching of creationism in science class was a purely American phenomenon, the government in Turkey just beat us, as the country has announced that evolution and the works of Charles Darwin would be dropped from high school science next year, the Associated Press reports.

The creation story is part of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

In some US schools, evolution isn’t taught because it differs from the story that God created all the species on Earth de novo about 10,000 years ago, according to the Book of Genesis in the Christian Bible. But that’s not the issue in Turkey, which is mostly a Muslim country. The issue is more about evolution being “too complex for high school minds to understand.”

As far as the specifics go, Turkey has overhauled its public school curriculum, revamping about 170 subjects. None of those remakes, though, inspired the same level of outrage as the removal of evolution from the high school biology curriculum.

“Not only biology, but all classes are to be taught in a more religious context,” said Feray Aytekin Aydogan, the head of a large teachers’ union. “This new curriculum is to produce very harmful results for our students and the future of this country.

“Turkey is being redesigned. That is the danger. Our teachers will be protesting out on the street and in the classrooms, they will carry on educating the students according to secular and scientific values no matter what the government does.

So, if kids are in biology class this year, they’ll learn what Darwin did for science; if they’re taking biology next year or beyond, no such luck. The subject will still be taught at Turkey’s universities, where students are a few years older and, based on this decision, better able to comprehend the complexity of evolutionary theory.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the only two countries that specifically exclude evolution from the high school curriculum, although some schools in the US have suggested it be taught side-by-side with the idea of creationism.

The AP quoted Ismet Yilmaz, Turkey’s education minister, as saying the new “value-based” program had simplified topics in “harmonization with students’ development.” He said evolutionary biology, which his ministry deemed was too advanced for high school, would still be taught in universities.

I say the word “public” in referring to schools, but keep in mind, Turkey’s schools have never been completely secular. In addition to reinventing high school biology, the education ministry plans to continue teaching jihad to young children.

“In classes, 9- and 10-year-old students have been memorizing prayers from the Koran,” the BBC quoted one woman as saying. “I believe religious education should be given at home, not in schools.”

To be honest, Turkey’s very religious approach to its schools has always caused a bit of discomfort. But now that biology will be reinvented, to include evolutionary mechanisms like adaptation, mutation, and natural and artificial selection, even without bringing in Darwin’s work, it only adds to the list of troubles for the nation’s education system.

Students will also learn about the failed coup in 2016 and about the network of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and uses a network of charter schools in the US, in part, to support a political network opposed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup attempt, but Mr Erdogan keeps blaming him.

The biology decision is simply outrageous, in my view. In an online forum, commentators have been in disbelief for months.

“This is bigotry, this is all about being a fanatic,” one wrote back in June. “How are they going to teach biology now? How are they going to talk about science?”

“Evolutionary theory is one of the most powerful and fundamental theories in modern science. To describe it as ‘controversial’ is unbelievable,” another added.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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