The U.S. Spends as Much Teaching Creationism in Schools as 23 Nations' Annual GDP

The U.S. Spends as Much Teaching Creationism in Schools as 23 Nations' Annual GDP

Concerned about government waste? Then you're probably not too pleased with American taxpayers in 14 states bankrolling nearly $1 billion in public funding for private schools — which as POLITICO reports, includes "hundreds of religious schools that teach Earth is less than 10,000 years old, Adam and Eve strolled the garden with dinosaurs, and much of modern biology, geology and cosmology is a web of lies."

Public schools across the United States are generally not allowed to teach creationism or intelligent design, despite state laws in Louisiana and Tennessee designed to allow Christian-influenced materials into classrooms as a so-called alternative. But POLITICO found that $1 billion in public subsidies for private schools very often goes to programs that don't even have the pretense of teaching basic science like evolution to schoolchildren. Instead:

... many of these faith-based schools go beyond teaching the biblical story of the six days of creation as literal fact. Their course materials nurture disdain of the secular world, distrust of momentous discoveries and hostility toward mainstream scientists. They often distort basic facts about the scientific method — teaching, for instance, that theories such as evolution are by definition highly speculative because they haven’t been elevated to the status of "scientific law."

One set of books popular in Christian schools calls evolution "a wicked and vain philosophy." Another derides "modern math theorists" who fail to view mathematics as absolute laws ordained by God. The publisher notes that its textbooks shun "modern" breakthroughs — even those, like set theory, developed back in the 19th century.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 26 states are considering enacting or expanding programs to provide public funding for private school vouchers. POLITICO says the supporters of such schools are so confident in their success that "so many students will receive private education on the public dime that everyone demands the option." But when controlling for wealth, disability, family education history and the degree of English spoken by students, a 2006 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that the programs don't perform better than public schools. And as these programs rapidly expand (Florida will increase the funding of their voucher program from $286 million this year to approximately $700 million in 2018), they're sapping already dwindling funding from the nation's secular public school system.

That's a lot of money. This is an incredible amount of money going to fund education that might not just be underperforming, but is actively harmful to the future prospects of American youth. According to the United Nations, there are about 23 countries with a nominal GDP less than $1 billion. And scientists are very concerned about the massive resources being driven into religious schools while America is facing increasing economic and scientific competition on the world stage.

"I don't think the function of public education is to prepare students for the turn of the 19th century," Eric Meikle, project director at the National Center for Science Education, told POLITICO.

Map of schools teaching creationism. Image Credit: Slate

Non-science. Polls have consistently shown that Americans are out of tune with scientists on a variety of issues, ranging from evolution and climate change to vaccines and funding for scientific research. A 2009 poll from Pew shows how big the disparity between the average American and the scientific consensus on a variety of issues is:

Every dollar spent on a Christian school for educational programs is a dollar taken from the taxpayer to subsidize religious indoctrination. As The New Civil Rights Movement's David Badash writes, "If this is the path to American exceptionalism, we're doomed."