Saturday, September 15, 2012

Science Teaching in Steiner Schools

Our response to an article in the Times Educational Supplement about science teaching in Steiner schools: 
The misconceptions conveyed in the article about Steiner Free Schools need correcting. The suggestion that Steiner schools `dismiss` Darwin is absurd. The best way to celebrate the genius of Darwin or any other scientific thinker is to engage with his ideas and to place them in context. This is what good school do and it is what Steiner schools do. Contrary to the views of David Colquhoun and Edzard Ernst, Steiner schools are strongly pro-science. They are also pro-enquiry and pro-academic rigour. Young people today face the threat of having science-as-orthodoxy, what Sheldrake would call `scientism`, thrust upon them as a creed that may not be questioned. Our young people must be encouraged and equipped to question everything, including orthodoxy, just as Darwin did.
In Steiner schools all science teaching begins with the close observation and direct experience of physical phenomena in order to gather evidence, rather than with a description of prevailing theories and models. It is an approach that resulted in the 2006 PISA study into Austrian Steiner schools concluding that state schools could learn from Steiner methods `especially concerning science teaching`; an approach which led to the same recommendation from a National Academies report in the USA; an approach that assists Steiner pupils in their generally excellent results in GCSE science subjects; an approach that has produced scientific alumni such as John Fitzallen Moore, Prof. Dr. Wolf-Christian Dullo and Kristen Nygaard, and an approach favoured by the parents who want their children to receive a scientific education that empowers them to question, enthuses them to explore, and equips them with a context in which to consider the ethical and moral issues that surround science.