More algebra, less climate change

13th June 2011 by

There was a shriek from across the office as our officemate Melanie@MyBnk turned on her computer to read the news this morning. “Climate change should be excluded from curriculum” she cried, quoting the front page of the Guardian.

Tim Oates, government adviser on the new national curriculum for 5-16 yr olds, reckons schools should get to decide whether or not to teach students about climate change in science. Apparently we need “to get back to the science in science. We have believed that we need to keep the national curriculum up to date with topical issues, but oxidation and gravity don’t date.”

Excuse me Mr Oates, I don’t believe that the melting point of icecaps, carbon production upon burning certain resources and the effect of warming gases in the atmosphere date either. This is only, I politely remind you, THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE EVER TO FACE HUMANKIND and one that these students will have to find solutions for. Maybe schools should teach handwriting with a quill and ink rather than IT, good handwriting doesn’t date, does it?

He says, “we are not taking it back 100 years; we are taking it back to the core stuff.” Climate change has been part of the national curriculum since 1995, so no you’re right Tim, you’re only taking it back 16 years.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, points out that teaching science through topical issues like climate change makes core scientific concepts more interesting for students and can increase their understanding of science. “Certain politicians feel that they don’t like the concept of climate change. I hope this isn’t a sign of a political agenda being exercised”, I really hope so too Bob. He warns that giving skeptical teachers the option not to teach climate change “would not be in the best interests of pupils. It would be like a creationist teacher not teaching about evolution.”

What Oates would like is students to be taught algebra at an earlier age. Oh yes, it’s the lack of algebra that’s responsible for the ills of the world, climate change is just a minor distraction. I too would like to know more about algebra than climate change, but before I go and do that, shall we just deal with this pesky climate change thing together?

I apologise for the apoplectic tone of this blog. I am going to go and rage somewhere else now. But before I go, People & Planet are being much more constructive than I am about this particularly stupid bit of prospective policy, they’re created a campaign to keep climate change in the curriculum which you can join by writing to Tim Oates.

2 Responses to “More algebra, less climate change”

  1. Ankoor says:

    Personally, i feel algebra is quite important, for example, could i ask how much CO2 and Methane will increase the earths temperature by 1 degree? Or the ocean temperature? Or, while we are tackling climate change someone should ask how the required changes to industry and energy use will affect the amount of water we use?

    I think whoever answers these questions will need better algebra than me.

  2. Jo says:

    Thanks to People and Planet for organising this letter which was published in the Guardian:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jun/21/crucial-lessons-climate-change-curriculum?INTCMP=SRCH

    As teachers, college leaders, educationists, students, employers and representatives of trade unions and third sector organisations, we are worried by the proposal to drop climate change from the national curriculum (Letters, 17 June).

    It appears to us entirely contradictory for a government that aspires to be the “greenest ever” and sees climate change as “one of the gravest threats we face” to remove from the national science curriculum the issue of climate change. Climate change is based on science and cannot be completely covered in other subjects. Such an action would mean many more young people leave school without an understanding of the facts.

    This also threatens to undermine the government’s “green deal” and the “green industrial revolution”, which promises to create a quarter of a million jobs over the next 20 years, according to Chris Huhne, the energy secretary. Colleges and training providers are being encouraged to create the green skills that will satisfy the demand for green jobs, but this will be undermined if learners do not have an understanding of the issues underlying the green economy.

    It is crucial that young people are taught how human activity can lead to changes in the environment and about ways the environment must be protected. We call on David Cameron, Chris Huhne and the education secretary, Michael Gove, to ensure that climate change and sustainability remain in the national curriculum, to be taught in a balanced way by professional educators.

    Jamie Clarke Education manager, People & Planet, Christine Blower National Union of Teachers, Dr Douglas Bourn Institute of Education, Brendan Barber Trades Union Congress
    Aaron Porter, President, National Union of Students
    Sally Hunt, General Secretary, University and Colleges Union
    David Nussbaum, Chief Executive WWF-UK
    John Sauven, Executive Director Greenpeace
    Mike Childs, Head of Climate Change Friends of the Earth
    Dr Elaine McMahon CBE, Principal and Chief Executive of Hull College, Chair of Association of Colleges Sustainable Futures Group
    Tom West, National Coordinator National Association for Environmental Education
    Deborah Doane, Director World Development Movement
    David Drury, VP Market Development South Nottingham College
    Hannah Smith, Co-Director UK Youth Climate Coalition
    Peter Robinson, Secretary The Climate Alliance
    Rob Hopkins, Founder Transition Network
    Paul Bodenham, Chair Christian Ecology Link
    Jo Clarke, Change Projects Manager The Otesha Project
    Phil Thornhill, National Coordinator Campaign against Climate Change
    Julie Pollard, Education Manager Practical Action
    Nigel Rayment, Research Director Magnified Learning
    Louise Robinson, Education Coordinator Reading International Solidarity Centre
    Rev Chris Brice, Chairman Operation Noah


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