I received an email containing a link to this article today Why “Neutral” Science Curriculum Isn’t Scientific • Pandia Press. This is an issue that has become a major point of contention with me. I cringe every time someone recommends Abeka or My Father’s World to new homeschoolers. Even when someone specifies that they want secular curriculum, EasyPeasy gets mentioned. People are oblivious to the battle of worldviews that is happening in science, especially within homeschool curriculum. I find the danger of “neutral” science lies in the parent having to know the real science and having to remember to add it in.
I considered myself to be well-educated without overt religious influences. Yet, I realized that my knowledge of biology, and specifically evolution, was sorely lacking when my son used Pandia Press’s Biology Level 2 for 7th grade science. My most recent prior biology course was in high school. It started with the teacher giving a disclaimer about “you may believe something different but I am going to teach evolution in this class.” However, as far as I remember, that was the only time evolution was mentioned that year. I had never seen a cladistics diagram or even heard of the concept until I was helping my son through his biology lessons. Despite the fact that his textbook was below high school level, I learned a lot of biology that had been left out of my course.
So, if we were using a neutral biology book, how would I even have known that we need to supplement with another resource on cladistics and the other topics that had been omitted from my biology education? If I have an incomplete understanding of a discipline, I need to select curriculum written by people who have a better grasp on it than I do. I will not spend my money on materials that purposely avoid major components of a subject matter.
Even if an evolutionary biologist was homeschooling and could plug all the holes in a neutral curriculum, would she remember to follow through every day? Right around March, every homeschool parent I know gets kind of burned out. Even at other times of the year, the rest of life just gets in the way of planning really awesome homeschool days. Our pretend evolutionary biologist probably has those days, too, when the baby was up all night and the aquarium leaked all over the rug. Meanwhile, she completely forgot that she meant to supplement that curriculum with books on fossils and dinosaurs being the ancestors of chickens.
There are days when I figure whatever was read in the textbook is just going to have to be good enough without all the extra frills. I need the curriculum to be reliable every day without me having to pre-read every word and add in extra stuff. Yes, it’s great when I find an awesome book and activity that fits in with the other materials. However, I can’t put in that effort all the time. If I could, I would just DIY the entire operation and not buy curriculum at all.
The truly scary thing is that curriculum publishers are trying to cater to the increasing number of secular homeschoolers and charter schools while also keeping a grip on their base of religious families. The result is adults who do not even know what scientific knowledge they are lacking until they begin to educate themselves. That may never happen for people who have never learned to ask questions.
If you are looking for secular curriculum materials, spend your money on secular materials. Do not support the businesses that try to play on both teams by putting out neutral materials. All curriculum is written by humans and can have mistakes. Honest publishers respond to criticism and correct biases.