Sweden has recently banned the teaching of creationism in schools. This ban is aimed at stopping teachers in faith based schools from presenting creationism alongside evolution. It is a move directed towards religious based teaching here in Sweden. The government will not be banning prayer, and will still allow for religious education but what gets taught will be regulated. Science is king here; or God if you will.
Obviously, this has caused a bit of a stir here in Sweden. I first read about it at thelocal.se and Swenglishman has written a couple of posts on the topic and brought up some good points. After having just visited Uppsala yesterday for a quick little day trip I decided that I was also going to weigh in. My inspiration comes from the castle and cathedral in Uppsala, and of course ATM who noticed it first. Both impressive structures, both easily seen from miles away, but interestingly enough there seems to have been some strife between the two. In fact cannons are pointed at the cathedral from the hill atop which the castle stands. The battle between church and state in a very visual way.
I am not a religious person. I’ve had plenty of discussions with people who are and plenty with people who aren’t. You can believe whatever it is you want to believe. I just don’t really buy it. Just as I’m sure believers don’t buy my ideas. That’s fine. Sweden is an interesting country when it comes to religion and the discussion of these beliefs.
Most people in Sweden are very hesitant to talk about their religious beliefs. While they may not adhere to organized religion, many Swedes are spiritual in some way. It’s the whole “I don’t believe in God, but…” argument. They believe in something, just not God. That’s just too old fashioned and not nearly progressive enough for the Swedes. It’s an interesting attitude and one which I really have no problem with.
With this attitude in mind though it is important to understand another important cultural phenomenon here in Sweden. Everyone in Sweden is allowed to speak their minds. No one is ever really wrong, they just have a different idea. Everyone is worth listening too. No matter how crackpot their ideas.
Now couple these two attitudes together and look at the recent ruling banning the teaching of creationism in schools and you have a bit of a problem. Suddenly, that ‘everyone’ who should be allowed to express ideas has become ‘everyone, but…’ kind of like Sweden’s attitude towards religion in the first place. It seems that being progressive sometimes gets in the way of a society open to any and all ideas. Somewhat contradictory. It plays to this attitude that can be seen at all spectrums of politics that “I’d love to hear what you have to say, as long as you agree with me.”
I don’t buy creationism, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a subject that should be taught in public schools. At the same time though skeptical of the complete banning of a subject or idea. I never learned about creationism in my biology classes. Had I been taught this I have the utmost faith in my ability to disseminate science from religious fundamentalism. Suddenly, the Swedish government is taking that decision away from young people. Instead of allowing for the development of critical thinking, it spoon-feeds young Swedes exactly what the government deems acceptable.
This ruling is stopping the teaching of creationism in faith based schools. And that’s where I have a problem. These people have chosen to attend a faith-based school. These students, as it stands now, have had the opportunity to learn both creationism and evolution, and so have been presented with ideas which they should then discuss, debate, and finally decide on. To have the government suddenly crackdown and say that despite your religious leanings, despite your freedom of choice when it comes to both religion and education, despite you living in a country that prides itself on accepting all ideas, there are just some things you shouldn’t be allowed to learn.
Swenglishman argues that this ruling will help to integrate because it keeps people from segregating themselves within schools that focus on their religion. He makes a good point, but at the same time I worry that completely outlawing something like this will only exacerbate problems. Suddenly, the part of the population that considers themselves religious, or has a strong religious history in their cultural background will feel attacked and segregated by the very government that is hoping to integrate.
We’ll see what kind of backlash this has. I wouldn’t be surprised to see very little actually considering the Swedish attitude towards religion. But, as the world saw with the Mohammed Roundabout Dogs, religion can be a powder keg issue. Maybe we’ll see some sort of protests in Stockholm. But I doubt it. Not everyone’s ideas are worth listening to it seems.
*I felt it necessary to clarify what I have written. Having returned to this post after numerous comments I felt like my opinion became muddled. And no one likes a muddled opinion. So. I do not believe that creationism should be taught as science in public schools. However, this ruling, as I wrote about it, refers to the banning of creationism in faith based schools. Schools which people who believe in a higher power, people who base their life on faith, have chosen to attend. This is an active choice, not one forced upon people in the public school systems. My problem is that Sweden is banning this teaching of creationism alongside evolution in these very faith based schools. To do so smacks of prejudice in that creationism (as ridiculous as it seems to me) is viewed by many as legitimate, or at least something to be coupled with evolution. It is important to note that evolution is still being taught in these schools.
Hopefully that clarifies a bit.