(MENAFN- Jordan Times) 'It is better to trust in the Rock of Ages than to know the ages of the rocks!' This was a great line from the film "Inherit the Wind", which dramatised the 1925 trial of John Scopes, a high school substitute teacher in Tennessee who was charged with violating the State's Butler Act. This legislation forbade teaching any theory that contradicted the biblical story of Creationism in any state-funded school.
The line may not have been said in the actual trial, but it illustrates succinctly the fundamental clash between scientists who examine empirical evidence to construct theories about the world we live in, and others who believe that efforts should focus instead on complying with their interpretation of God's will, and that any other knowledge is superfluous and potentially harmful. Neither of them is necessarily wrong, but their outlooks are irreconcilable.
I mention this because a week ago social media carried a photocopy of a letter from the Ministry of Education instructing a private school not to teach theories about human evolution in the International Baccalaureate biology syllabus because such theories "disagree with the philosophy of the ministry". My first inclination was to disbelieve the report; but on November 25, the minister of education, an enlightened man, published a clarification on Twitter that the letter was not issued by the minister or the specialised committee, but by the department concerned, and that the matter would be resolved in the following committee meeting.
It would appear that our Ministry of Education has decided not only to catch up with the Tennesseans of 1925, but to surpass them. The Butler Act sought to impose Creationist philosophy on state-funded schools, while our ministry wants to impose its philosophy on private schools as well.
This presents the already beleaguered Jordanian middle class with yet another dilemma. People in Jordan squeeze their budgets and forego many pleasures in order to send their children to private schools. And this is not a negligible portion of the population. According to the Ministry of Education Statistical Report 2015-2016, there were 3,055 private schools in Jordan that year, nearly 44 per cent of the total, catering for 499,467 students, nearly
40 per cent of the total.
In other words, about 40 per cent of families in Jordan vote with their hard earned income to send their children to a school that embraces modernity. But where can they turn if modernity conflicts with the philosophy of the Ministry of Education?
This reminds me of a story my father-in-law told me about his childhood in Jerash. The elders of town, it seems, warned him and his classmates never to repeat the stuff they were taught at school about the earth being round. 'You may say it to the teacher in a test,' said the elders, 'because you must not upset him; but never let anyone else hear you say this or you will become a laughing stock.'
I wonder whether the earth being round agrees with the philosophy of the Ministry of Education.
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