Sparks fly over science in Steiner schools

21st September 2012 at 01:00

The news that Steiner schools provide teachers with material that promotes homeopathy and which is anti-Darwin comes as no great shock ("'Homeopathy? I'm sorry, we're just not swallowing it'," 14 September). That the government supports this, albeit indirectly, through state funding for such schools is scandalous. These may be "free schools", but that freedom should not extend to promoting pseudoscience over accepted and verifiable science. Regardless of the safeguards that the Department for Education claims to have in place for the establishment of such independent schools, it cannot guarantee that anti-scientific thinking and teaching is not promoted by followers of the Steiner philosophy.

Followers of Rudolf Steiner may believe what they read about homeopathy or the structure of the heart being unable to account for emotions, but science is not the place to teach beliefs. Science provides explanations based on evidence. School science delivers what is accepted and verified by the scientific community. I suspect that the safeguards and, more importantly, the checks on day-to-day teaching will be insufficient to stop the proliferation of anti-science and pseudoscience. It is almost inevitable that this will lead to the implantation of misconceptions in the minds of the young people attending such schools - and once implanted, they will be difficult to change.

James D. Williams, Lecturer in science education, University of Sussex.

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