Creationism is not a new problem in New Zealand schools, as this article excerpt from NZ Skeptic 18 (December 1990) illustrates.
A report of a survey conducted in 1988
In order to ascertain to what extent creationist ideas and influence have penetrated secondary school science courses, we sent the following questionnaire to secondary schools in the Wellington region.
- Approximately how many hours are devoted to the teaching of evolution in your school and what proportion of pupils are taught it?
- Are creationist ideas being taught at your school as part of a science course?
- Do any science teachers in your school use Creationist literature with their classes?
Nine replies were received from about 35 schools circulated. Although this provides only a small sample, and few generalisations can be made, the replies represent a good cross section, from central city large schools to “suburban” schools, and single sex and co-ed schools.
Most teachers made no comment of any concern they may have felt about the influence of Creationism in our schools, but 2 teachers specifically stated they felt there is a problem and that they are concerned about it. Most teachers expressed confidence that their 7th form pupils were able to decide for themselves on the merits or otherwise of the Creationist arguments, but one teacher specifically stated a concern that some pupils had already been “indoctrinated” and that few pupils had “the scientific background to adequately evaluate Creationist literature.” Two schools said their science teaching staff included a Creationist (and a third school, from which no reply was received, is known to us). Hence, 3 out of 10 schools have Creationists on their science teaching staff.
Evolution is clearly absent altogether from lower Form (Forms 3-5) courses, and comprises a minor part, if any, of the 6th Form Biology course. In Form 7 it constitutes a major part (generally 20-35 hours) of the Biology course, which is taken by about 20-30% of the 7th Form. This presumably represents about 3% of the school role.
In total, 4 of the 9 schools expose their pupils to Creationist ideas in the teaching of evolution – generally as a “stimulus for discussion” but, in 2 cases, to show that there are “alternatives that many people accept”. Students are encouraged to discuss the question and to “decide for themselves”. Two mentioned that they had taken classes to hear Dr Wilder-Smith (a prominent Creationist spokesman) talk, during his recent visit to New Zealand.
Roger Cooper (Paleontologist, NZ Geological Survey)
Gordon Hewitt (Biologist, School of Health Sciences, Central Institute of Technology)
Frank Andrews (Astronomer, Carter Observatory(
Dave Burton (Zoologist, Victoria University(