Teaching about climate change: how the sceptics see Gove as an allyPosted: April 14, 2014
Last week, the Daily Mail gave substantial space to a report from Nigel Lawson’s “Global Warming Policy Foundation” that claimed to reveal how children are being indoctrinated by green propaganda in schools (http://www.thegwpf.org/new-report-reveals-green-brainwashing-in-uk-schools/).
The report asserts that “We find instances of eco-activism being given a free rein within schools…. In every case of concern, the slant is on scares, on raising fears, followed by the promotion of detailed guidance on how pupils should live, as well as on what they should think. In some instances, we find encouragement to create ‘little political activists’ in schools by creating a burden of responsibility for action on their part to ‘save the planet’, not least by putting pressure on their parents.”
The starting point of course is that the dangers of man-made climate change are matters about which there can be a legitimate scientific debate and that scepticism is a defensible position. The authors of the report accuse schools and teachers of teaching politics rather than science. As far as the science goes, there is of course no more legitimacy in the sceptics position than there is in the views of deniers of evolution. The reality is that recognition that climate change is significantly man-made and is a huge threat to our future represents an almost universal scientific consensus.
The report laboriously tracks how climate change is addressed in schools through the curriculum, exams, textbooks and wider activities. In their view it amounts to illegitimate and possibly illegal political indoctrination.
There are two fundamental responses to be made. One is that there can be no legitimate reason to give climate change deniers equal space. This is a trap that the BBC not uncommonly falls into. We are not dealing here with a matter of opinion or political judgement. The scientific consensus needs to be recognised and taught for what it is.
The second point is that teaching about values is an entirely proper aspect of education. We teach about democracy and about equality in all its aspects. No one now suggests that racism is an equally legitimate position that needs to be put forward as a viable alternative. We may not have got all the way to universal acceptance of all aspects of equalities but we’re well on the way. Maintaining a planet for our grandchildren to inherit is also a matter of morality. It can’t be something our society is neutral about.
We might just think that this is the Mail sounding off again and we don’t need to take much notice. However there is a more chilling bit. It tells us that “A spokesman for Mr Gove said: ‘The Secretary of State read this report with concern. Schools should not teach that a particular political or ideological point of view is right – indeed it is against the law for them to do so.”
Moreover the report itself spells out in some detail how Michael Gove’s new curriculum has watered down the coverage of climate science. It documents with approval the fact that the 2013 curriculum appeared to “try to restrict the teaching of climate change dogma”. Gove was forced retreat to some degree in the face of public pressure but this report still considers that “the new curriculum is a major improvement over the previous one. There is no mention of ‘sustainability’ anywhere in the document, and of the five mentions of climate, only two provide clear opportunities for the inclusion of illustrative materials and examples promoting alarm over anthropogenic climate change.”
Which leaves you wondering just what Gove is up to. Is he cosying up to the right wing press as one step in his personal leadership campaign? Or is it that he has a problem with anything that encourages young people to be politically aware and active. This would be a piece with the emasculation of the Citizenship curriculum which has lost everything about active participation by young people at school and in their community. All we’re left with is a dreary recital of the workings of the constitution detached from any personal engagement.
This is of course the Tory way – what they want is to see is young people who are compliant and unchallenging of the status quo. Whatever the reason, this is yet another clear example of how the personal prejudices and interests of ministers are being forced on schools and therefore why in future politicians should be kept away from the curriculum.