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.


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