The One About Climate Change

I was at a party the other week and found myself using the title topic as a conversation filler; admittedly, I was talking to an environmental scientist, but it was after midnight, which shows how “common” a subject it has become.

This is perhaps the reason why I was surprised to read “Climate change should be excluded from curriculum, says adviser” in the Guardian newspaper yesterday. This was discussed in the article by Tim Oates, who was responsible for reviewing the curriculum for 5 – 16 year olds earlier in the year, and Michael Gove, the education secretary. Where in the article, the situation of climate change sceptics being given the choice of whether or not to teach the topic was likened to creationist teachers not teaching evolution (or vice versa), it was much more bluntly discussed in the comments. The term “Flat-Earth Society” was mentioned multiple times.

The root of this article may be stemmed in policy yet again, about what kinds of science should appear on the curriculum, but it does seem that more policy-makers have been consulted in the process than scientists. One of the reasons mentioned for cutting down the curriculum is that it has become too cluttered since the last review, with attempts to add various elements, including public engagement, to give young pupils a rounded impression of science today. However, science, and the parts of it featured in current affairs everyday, changes continuously, it may be unreasonable to attempt to keep up with it. Thus, the proposed new curriculum aims to return to teaching a solid foundation of science, and accompanying mathematics, but the worry now lies with whether pupils will think of this as “old, boring science”.

One, main argument presented by the board for removing climate change, is that it will date, like other social scientific features. Personally, I do not think it will. Yes, I may be a climate change believer, but I do not blame anybody in particular. The weather (right now too, in fact) is behaving more erratically than ever, and we should do something about it. Truth be told, I am not certain what to make of these decisions on the curriculum: it is important to learn about fundamental science; it is also important to learn how that science works around us. What do you think? (Read: let me know in the comments.)

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3 thoughts on “The One About Climate Change

  1. Reading the guardian article I don’t think that the man’s views were well thought through. What fundamental science would he replace key stage 1 learning to ‘respect the environment’ with? Isn’t that where they discuss not to trample on flowers and draw pictures of rainforests?

    I think that science like climate change etc. should be used as an example for more fundamental science. Teach them that the atmosphere has layers and that the sun heats the earth etc.

    After that it would also be a good use to teach the uncertainty behind scientific truths and introduce topics like how much proof is needed to say something is true by getting them to design experiments or something. From my extremely limited experience trying to get kids to do science and have 10-11 year olds understand scientific error whilst they messed about with burrettes at a science festival I do not think it would actually work. Nor would encouraging that level of disbelief in a teacher a healthy classroom make.

    Or how about what resources of information to respect? At school we tackled climate change by being made to make a report and presenting it to the class at age 14. I made a terrible video – I think I still have it at home. We staged a mock tv debate, made an experiment (in which we lied about the results of to fit the hypothesis and used the fact that it was quite a fuzzy video – tut tut), and read paraphrased bits of info about renewable energy sources from an encyclopaedia. I also did the whole video in a squeaky mock-french accent whilst wearing a scarf on my head and mock-hitting my friend with a tennis racket. Each to their own. So it didn’t exactly teach us a lot but it was fun and made you come to our own conclusions. A couple of people chose to present theories about it being the sun-spot cycle etc.

  2. It was also back in the day when climate change was called global warming. I just thought about that – what a subtle PR change.

  3. Indeed! I do suspect that they changed the name as people were “going off” the term global warming. Or they thought that colder winters could not be referred to anything warming up.

    I suppose it is troublesome to finalise a suitable curriculum, to include aspects of natural science that relate to current social sciences. Then again, climate change could induce some “tree-hugging” (apparently Prince Phillip had at one point referred to them as “bunnyhuggers” – I thought it was funny) into younger children born into our so called consumerist society; also, it could relate to studying activity of the Sun; the chemistry of the ozone layer, wave-physics, recycling and various cycles (nitrogen, carbon, energy?). Public engagement can probably wait until later I think.

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