Creationist Education–Propaganda & Bad Pedagogy

This story has been out for a bit, but only more recently was it confirmed:

This was a quiz given to 4th graders in South Carolina. It was first posted up on Reddit  but the origins of the quiz were uncertain, and there was worthy skepticism if it was legitimate. It had the craziness of young-earth creationists, but was it really the sort of indoctrination they were using in the classroom? A lot of discussion happened at The Friendly Atheist’s blog, along with more anecdotes from the father of the child that took this quiz. (Apparently, the student had learned how to repeat creationists soundbites thoughtlessly.)

Well, it is declared confirmed by Snopes, and that is because Answers in Genesis (AiG) has “confessed” to being behind this, along with confirming the school that had the quiz administered. You can see this getting Internet press, including against at the Friendly Atheist and the Panda’s Thumb.

Do I have to say anything about how terrible this is from a science point of view? The Earth isn’t billions of years old? The Flood made all the fossils? Ahhh. AHHHH!

But what was surprising to me was the structure of the test from an educational point of view. From the point of pedagogy, it is the worst possible form of teaching and makes “learning” no more than memorizing bite-sized answers in disconnected fashion. Hell, a bunch of these questions that are multiple choice are stupidly made. When you produce and MC test, you not only provide a correct (or in this case, “correct”) answer, but you also need to provide distractors that will catch students that are not getting the material. But just look at the fossil question (#16): the possible causes of fossils are tornadoes, lightning, evolution, and a global flood? Tell me, who even thinks lightning makes fossils? And ‘evolution’ doesn’t even make sense as an answer. The way this question is made not only misinforms the student, it was created by someone that doesn’t even understand the question they are trying to ask!

The question designer has confused the fossil record as evidence for evolution into evolution making fossils (there can be fossils and evolution be false); the person has confused lightning as a possible element in forming early organic molecules and led to life and the creation of fossils; the person has also apparently confused the probability arguments about evolution, such that a DNA molecule coming together by chance is like a tornado going through a junk yard and forming a Boeing 747. That’s my best guess as to how they made such a stupid, stupid question. You have to know fuck-all about biology to be this bad. And this isn’t because the answer is creationist crap; it’s because to make a good multiple choice question you have to know not just the “right” answer but the students’ likely wrong answers. This question is not even wrong!

Or take a look at the written response question about fossils (#17). Fossils are “billions of dead things”? Wow, that’s so informative. All this quiz wanted was to see if the student could recite their soundbite. Never mind about how fossils are formed (minerals replacing organics), or under what conditions will you get fossils, or anything that could even be a science question. There is only the ability to repeat what was said, not connected to anything else. It’s just a creedal statement from the Council of Ni-I-don’t-see-evidence-for-evolution-ea. I also note the student misspelled ‘buried’ but didn’t get any points off. I guess it’s good enough that the student can make the anti-science noises. Screw literacy, it’s not like we need to read anything; just believe what Ken Ham tells you.

Now, it’s not clear who created this quiz, but given the name of it, the pictures used, and the form of the questions, I’m betting it was part of the curriculum package from AiG. On their webpage where it is sold it mentions a discussion package, so I’m going to make the reasonable guess that the teacher had this quiz from AiG and made photocopies for the class. Therefore I’m pinning this creation squarely on AiG; still, that the teacher thought it was a good DVD to show and a good quiz to administer doesn’t reflect well on him or her as an educator.

Ken Ham et al. — they know just about as much biology as they know about education. They think that learning is about memorizing a bunch of discombobulated garbage that must be regurgitated on demand. This is the lowest form of learning, and it shows no depth, no understanding, no transfer of knowledge, nothing that can actually be applied to anything else besides it being some dogma. Moreover, the things that are rote memorized, such as you can’t know about the distant past if you weren’t there, that cuts off actual inquiry and discovery. It’s learning about how to not explore, how to not learn. This quiz not only rams against the last 200 years of biology and geology, it plows past the last 100 years of educational research. I’m betting the people at AiG have as much scorn for Charles Darwin as they do for John Dewey. They know as much about the Cretaceous period as they do about constructivism.

Creationists: they’re not only undermining education at the factual level, they’re undermining the very notion of education itself. They only know dogma and all else is heresy. There is no thinking, just selling a product. Please note: educate =/= indoctrinate, and teaching =/= marketing.

And really, isn’t it sad if the whole of your theology can be learned in an afternoon by 4th graders? If reading and understanding the Bible is that easy, … geez, I can’t think of a worse insult for the Bible.


3 thoughts on “Creationist Education–Propaganda & Bad Pedagogy

  1. I also note the student misspelled ‘buried’ but didn’t get any points off.

    It’s hardly fair to deduct points for spelling on a science quiz. Unless, of course, it actually obscures the argument.

    • I disagree. Part of science is communication, and that requires the basics of literacy. Besides, in 4th grade the science teacher is the also the English teacher, so they are wearing all the educational hats. Besides, by getting 100% on this “quiz” the student won’t even realize there was a mistake. At the very least there should be a mark on the page indicating the mistake, even if points aren’t lost.

      • No disagreement on that last bit. I correct my pupils’ spelling, but I don’t deduct them points, if what they’re actually saying is correct. (Now, if their spelling and/or grammar is so poor that they end up saying the opposite of what they mean, that’s another matter, of course).

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