A letter in yesterday’s Observer expressing concern about pseudo-scientific Free Schools has been signed by the British Humanist Association (BHA). Amongst others, the letter was also signed by Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter; David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology at University College London; and the science writer Simon Singh, and is specifically directed at Maharishi and Steiner schools.
The letter reads:
Sir – Since the formation of the coalition, a lot of public concern has been expressed over the potential establishment of creationist Free Schools. This concern resulted in the Government changing the rules for Free Schools to prevent them from teaching pseudoscience (Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists, 15 January 2012).
However, not enough attention has been paid to what we believe to be two equally grave threats to science education, namely Maharishi and Steiner schools. Maharishi schools follow the educational methods of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, guru of the Transcendental Meditation movement, while Steiner education is based on an esoteric/occultist movement called Anthroposophy, founded by Austrian mystic Rudolf Steiner (Holistic unit will ‘tarnish’ Aberdeen University reputation, 29 April 2012).
The Maharishi School has as its specialist subject the ‘Science of Creative Intelligence’, which is not based on science. It also teaches the ‘Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health’, a system of herbal medicine, most of which lacks evidence of efficacy and safety. Anthroposophy, or spiritual science, is centred on beliefs in karma, reincarnation and advancing children’s connection to the spirit world.
The first Steiner Academy opened in 2008, with a Free School pre-approved by the Government to open this September. The first Maharishi School opened last September. Both groups have interviews to open more Free Schools in 2013. We believe that the new rules on teaching pseudoscience mean that no more Steiner or Maharishi schools should open.
Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs, British Humanist Association
Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine, University of Exeter
David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology, University College London and blogger, dcscience.net
Simon Singh, science writer
Andy Lewis, Quackometer.net
Alan Henness, zenosblog.com
Richard Byng, medical academic
Applications to open Steiner Free Schools in Exeter, Leeds and Suffolk (the Fullfledge Ecology School) and Maharishi Free Schools in Richmond and Suffolk in 2013 have recently been accepted to interview by the Department for Education (DfE). Progress of other Steiner applications is unknown.
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7462 4993.
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.