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NEWS | Sunday, 14 October 2007

Dinosaurs helped build the pyramids, school director says

Raphael Vassallo

Far from becoming extinct 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs actually co-existed with early humans, and even helped in the construction of the pyramids.
This is the word of Vince Fenech, Evangelist pastor and director of a fully licensed, State-approved Creationist institution which admits children aged between four and 18.
“Of course the ‘dinoceros’ existed (as Fenech pronounces the word). It is mentioned in the Book of Job. They were used to help build the pyramids,” he says, adding that this latter observation is only “his personal belief”, and that it does not form part of the school’s curriculum.
But the curriculum of the Accelerated Christian Academy in Mosta is not exactly free of such fanciful reinventions of history. Fenech reiterates the basic Evangelist tenet that the entire universe was created in 4004 BC… and this time, he also supplies “proof”.
“When man landed on the moon (in 1969), they expected the landing module to sink in a deep layer of dust. But the layer was only a few inches deep. This proves that the universe is still young!”
Does it? I would have thought it merely illustrates that unlike the Earth, the moon has little or nothing in the way of atmosphere… and dust is usually generated as a result of particles which combine as they are buffeted around by the movement of atmospheric molecules. Also, the moon’s gravity is two thirds less than it is on Earth… which in turn means that dust is practically weightless, and therefore doesn’t settle.
But of course there is little point in saying so, because as far as Fenech in concerned, it is the word of God alone that counts. Fenech confirmed this during an impromptu interview at the MaltaToday office in San Gwann, where he irrupted last Thursday on a Divine Mission to correct my misconceptions about his Mosta academy.
“Your write-up last Sunday was full of mistakes,” he pointed out. Foremost among the mistakes is the incorrect identification of Fenech as “headmaster” instead of director… an error which I acknowledge, and for which I apologise.
“You also wrote last Sunday that God created Adam and Eve,” Fenech continues. “This is not true. The first woman did not have a name; she was made from Adam’s rib and was known only as ‘woman’. She got the name ‘Eve’ only after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. You can quote me on that…”
Fenech suddenly seems very keen on being quoted. “We don’t just teach our students about evolution,” he continues enthusiastically. “We also teach them, for example, that abortion is murder… and you can quote me on that, too!”
This was evidently intended as an automatic trump card, in a country where any public assertion of pro-life values automatically entitles one to instant respectability. Intrigued, I ask Fenech for more details about the school’s approach to controversial social issues. To teach that “abortion is murder” – regardless of one’s opinion in the matter – presupposes at least a basic knowledge of the human reproductive system. In other words, sex. Considering that the ACA accepts students as young as four: how old are students when they are taught about sex, abortion and murder?
Strangely, however, Vincent Fenech appears incapable of giving a straight answer. Instead, after humming and hawing and generally avoiding the issue, he suddenly denies having made the claim in the first place.
“We do not teach that abortion is murder,” he insists, contradicting himself totally in less than five minutes. “What we teach is ‘Thou shalt not kill’.”
Pressed further, Fenech eventually admits that the classes at the ACA at not composed according to the traditional model. Instead, it seems that children of varying ages are mixed together in one class… although the school’s director will not be drawn into explaining precisely how.
“But you, what do you believe in?” he suddenly asks. “What do you think will happen to you after you die?”
I don’t know, I answer. I imagine my body will decompose, rot and eventually disappear…
Assuming an air of lofty superiority, Fenech places his hand on heart as he simpers: “I, on the other hand, know exactly what will happen to me. I will go to Heaven. It is written in the Scriptures: only those who are reborn in Christ will see the Kingdom of God…”
That may well be the case, but it is not written in the National Curriculum. So for the second time in two weeks, I sent questions to Education Director Cecilia M. Borg on the subject of the Accelerated Christian Academy in Mosta, and all the unscientific nonsense evidently taught therein.
I asked Dr Borg, whether the education division was aware of resolution no. 1580, passed by the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly on 4 October 2007, entitled “The dangers of creationism in education”.
The resolution observes that “the war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements”, and urges EU member states to “to firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution and in general resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion?”
Dr Borg promptly sent the following reply: “From previous correspondence I am sure you could clearly deduce that the position of the Education Division is perfectly aligned to the Council of Europe Resolution 1580 since it was made amply clear that while every school is obliged by law to follow the National Minimum Curriculum in all curricular matters, religious, moral and ethical instruction is imparted in respect to the freedom of belief as guaranteed by the Constitution and in the light of ‘the right of every parent of a minor to give his decision with regard to any matter concerning the education which the minor is to receive,’ as entrenched in article 6. of the Education Act.”



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