Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz – Education, Diluted

A baby has been had and the relentless first few months are over, so it’s time to write for School of Doubt again!


It’s World Homeopathy Awareness Week, apparently. Sugar pill peddlers across the globe will be spreading the good word, making sure that we are all fully educated about the beneficial effects of magic memory water. The kind people at the Good Thinking Society have produced a wonderful website to mark the occasion, just in case you want to raise some awareness yourself.


I was recently working though a backlog of emails when I noticed something that caught my eye. I’m a sometime-member of an ensemble music group and we communicate via group emails. I was reading through a particular thread when I noticed that one of the newer members describes themselves as a “Professional Homeopath” in their signature. Curiosity got the better of me and I Googled the person’s name. I found them listed in a directory of British homeopaths, along with a (presumably) self-written bio which states that their main area of interest is “bringing homeopathy into schools”. The bio goes on to explain that the individual has developed an educational resource pack to tie in with this aim.


I just…. no. It’s one thing to ascribe to a patently ridiculous and potentially seriously harmful branch of quackery as an adult, but the idea of pushing something like homeopathy to children in schools makes my skin crawl. How would it even work? Would there be an assembly? Lessons in science? In health class? Would the school nurse become involved? Would the school canteen just continue to sell sweets but just claim that they now cure various ailments as well as tasting good?


I’d like to think that school staff would immediately see any attempt to push something like homeopathy to pupils for what it was – as dishonest or at least deluded pseudoscience. However, I’m not so sure that this would be the case. I was plenty guilty of not understanding what homeopathy actually was until I got more heavily involved in science and scepticism a few years ago. Before that, I just thought that homeopathy was another type of “natural” herbal-type medicine. It’s not too far out there to imagine head teachers being misled in order to open school doors. In fact, several years ago our entire school allowed the now-discredited “BrainGym” people to run presentations for all of our pupils. I dread to think how much that cost.


I’m seriously tempted to try to get a hold of these “resources”, just to see what they look like. Hopefully the lunacy of homeopathy will shine through and they’ll turn out to be the amateurish writings of a wishful thinker. Quacks are notoriously good at hiding the true nature of their nonsense, however, and I worry that young and impressionable minds might not see the danger.


Has any form of pseudoscience ever been promoted at your educational establishment? If so, who promoted it? How did people respond? Did anyone challenge it?


The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET).

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Alasdair is a high school English teacher in Scotland. He's a passionate skeptic and science fan, which is why he runs a discussion club for young skeptics in his school. He loves space and astronomy more than pretty much anything and is studying for a physics degree in his spare time in order to become qualified to teach science.

He lives with a cat made of distilled hatred and spikes.

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