Should climate change be dropped from the national curriculum?

Francis Gilbert's picture
I published this article on The Guardian's Comment Is Free site earlier today.

I was shocked to read today that climate change may be dropped from the national curriculum. As a teacher in various state schools for 20 years, I've seen how much the education on this issue has really improved in the past decade and how everyone has benefited from it being a prescribed part of the curriculum.

Pupils are really motivated to learn about climate change. I've seen this first-hand. At my school, in common with many others, there's been a drive to help pupils make links between the various subjects around the issue of the environment and, obviously, climate change has played a big part in that. As an English and media teacher, I've read articles with my classes about how climate change is making the poorest people in the world suffer from droughts and flooding. I've seen just how animated pupils become when they've debated the issues. Furthermore, I've become aware that they've learned a great deal about the problem in science and geography – and have enjoyed it. One normally disaffected student, fired up by what she was reading, told me that learning things in school "made sense" to her. "It's like I see what education's all about," she told me. It was a real eureka moment for her.

Following on from this point, pupils have definitely benefited from applying theory to practical examples. The most obvious instance of this is in science, where pupils learn the theory and science of the greenhouse effect and then examine real-life examples. One geography teacher told me today, outraged about the government's plans, that this is the thing that makes many children learn most effectively: they need to see the relevance of a particular academic knowledge before it sinks in. Learning about climate change has enabled students to see the "holistic" nature of knowledge; they've been able to join the dots between the various subject disciplines.

Third, and most importantly, climate change is one of the most pressing problems facing us today. We must educate the next generation properly about it so that they are able to take the action that's needed. Our whole future is at stake here; it would be a tragedy to drop climate change from the national curriculum.

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Ben Taylor's picture
Mon, 13/06/2011 - 17:37

Oates says in the Guardian piece that other social effects are capable of being studied depending on school situations.

His motivation is to hack back the overloaded curriculum. I guess one problem is that the issue is too political. It's one thing to understand the science, and another to start directing children towards political actions. Even if it wasn't on the curriculum would that mean it could not be taught? It's hard to avoid in chemistry and biology!

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 10:48

Ben -

Climate change is hugely relevant today and for the future and it is not just a political issue but, more importantly, a humanitarian one. It's a science subject of direct relevance to the children learning it in schools in science or geography.

I am bemused by your statement that climate change would direct children towards political action. Children ought to be encouraged to understand current affairs and get engaged in politics and this is why the Citizenship Curriculum is so important and has to remain embedded in all schools. We recently had an AV Referendum - a hugely significant occasion when people were asked to make a decision about the voting system in this country and they could choose whether to keep it as it was or change it. Children being taught politics in school is not a form of left wing indoctrination, despite what many on the Telegraph blogs insist, but a part of their learning of society and the world they live in. I hope more and more young people become politically active - it would lead to a better turn out at general and local elections and we might hear what the silent majority might want

Ben Taylor's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 12:34

Allan, I agree with what you say mostly. I think though science lessons should mainly concentrate on facts as science understands them. What people should do in consequence as a moral question is important but not primarily for science lessons. Certainly it should be studied but it needs to be free of too much political interference. I think sending Al Gore films to schools is too political. I would also say that about skeptic media.

It SHOULD still be studied but perhaps we need to strip down the curriculum. Wouldn't a good school still do something somewhere about it in an activity?

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 15/06/2011 - 12:46

As far as Curriculum goes, I would like to see a balanced curriculum and it is up the schools and the local authority to decide what this is. However,legislation should be in place to ensure that no school should offer a narrow or biased curriculum. I don't see the advantage of a regressive, narrow curriculum that over-emphasises subjects such as Latin or Ancient Greek at the expense of technological subjects which are crucial for the modern world. A Citizenship Curriculum teaching inclusion, politics, diversity is also crucial.

Climate Change is impacting on our lives now, more so in the the lives of our children and their children. It is essential that all children learn at school about the wider world and the civilization they live in and how they engage with the world, hopefully as responsible and humane people. I'm not convinced that a throw back "classical" curriculum in a state funded school, self-consciously aping the culture of a top public school offers the most rounded education nor the tools for a child to go into the world and engage with different people from different backgrounds or cultures

JustMEinT's picture
Wed, 29/06/2011 - 09:03

Just a general conversation with young kids, about (so called) Climate Change, will reveal that they are being fed much disinformation – be it via the media, the school curriculum or even from their parents and close relatives.
It seemed to me that much of the ‘knowlege’ espoused from these children’s mouths was very biased towards the THEORY of Carbon Based Man Made Climate Change (CAGW). Please remember a theory is still unproven.

My Husband remembers that in 1943 – while in the 4th grade at school, in his weekly reader, it taught that within ten years America would have used up all of its oil reserves…. never happened yet the kids were fed that information!

Reading my news online I came across the following, which I believe backs up what I was thinking/experiencing. Get the children young enough, teach them what you want them to know and believe, therefore indoctrinating them, and you have the whole future society doing your bidding (perhaps?). For complete story follow the link

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