Teaching and climate change…

Should teaching climate change be dropped from the National Curriculum?

Link to pdf file: Teaching climate change

I feel this is on a par with American schools dropping the teaching of the Theory of Evolution, in favour of Intelligent Design – don’t get me started on this subject, it will be a very long post! Dropping this subject is like saying we’re going to drop the teaching of one of the most rigorously researched and debated areas of science that has ever existed. The subject and science of climate change is surely one of the most important factors affecting our planet, and the 7 Billion people who live on it (not to mention the trillions of other organisms). What’s really interesting from a learning point of view is that this subject is also changing every day, with new data, theories, explanations and solutions being developed all the time. This gives the student (or anyone for that matter) a key opportunity to be involved in the subject, not just to learn about it after the event.

Keep this subject in the curriculum: http://peopleandplanet.org/navid12439?product=TIP

It seems the closer or more involved a person is to the thing which they are studying, the greater the impact it will have on them, and the more they will relate to it. This will therefore mean a deeper understanding of it and improved learning. This is why so many people find it easier to learn something new by both reading books and practical experience.

I remember quite clearly the wide variety of school environments I experienced while growing up in various towns and in various types of school system. I remember a lot about the teaching styles, the character of the teachers, what they looked/sounded like, the physical environments we were being taught in, the sources of information. What I don’t remember quite so well, in particular in the history lessons, is the content of the lessons!

I think this has a lot to do with the emphasis of the lessons, being about learning a certain type of information, dates, names, places, people, and not necessarily understanding that information. There is an obvious connection between the two things, in that you can’t understand something unless you can recall at least basic details about that thing. But, there is a point where just being asked or expected to soak up endless facts, then to spill them out again, becomes very difficult and actually counter-productive to the learning process. It can be a big turn-off. Some people are better at this type of learning than others. I’ve known people who can recall vast amounts of data type information. I am definitely on the side of understanding and experiencing to learn. The more interested and connected I feel to something, the more I will learn about that subject. There is an emotional response behind this and if this can be harnessed, there is no limit to what can be achieved.

On a related theme, there is not enough application towards real life issues and demands. It’s great learning the ‘core’ subjects, but if you leave school not even knowing how to open or manage a bank account, what is the point? The curriculum has to rapidly move towards at least more of an emphais on preparing children to deal with the demands of the real world, in day to day life. Things such as nutrition, health science, climate studies, accounting & finance and cookery are vitally important to recognise in the curriculum. Knowing (or not) where our food comes from and how to manage personal finances are two of the key principles which are shaping our modern life.

There’s an obvious argument which goes something like ‘schools are for traditional subjects but it’s the parents job to teach the day to day subjects’. I suppose what is comes down to is that no one group is ultimately responsible for education; it’s the combination of various groups which produce the system. This is partly what people don’t understand how important learning outside of school can be. It’s not just the school teachers who teach – everyone does. The main reason why i’m so keen on schools teaching more of the day to day ‘life skills’ is that some kids don’t even have a family or stable home environment, let alone access to guidance or education, outside of school.

Taking finances as an example, it is so easy to get into debt and this is actually encouraged within our free market system. Understanding this process is so important. Getting out of debt is a life-long struggle and you need skills to be able to manage the process. Getting into debt, on the other hand, is very easy. I would normally say making mistakes and learning from experience is a good thing, but when you’ll be paying for those mistakes for years to come, and in process limiting your choices in life, it’s not so simple.

This separation of teaching subjects extends right through into university education. On both my Planning Studies BA course, and the MA Urban Design course, there was very little real practice or learning about what you would actually need to do when you got into a job. There was lots of theory, but I got into my first full-time urban design job and essentially had no idea what to do. All the theory hadn’t helped me to prepare for what I would be asked to do and in particular, the methods for achieving anything. We hadn’t learnt about development pressures, highways implications, policy impacts, masterplanning, real design coding, software usage etc.

Ok, what was I meant to be talking about…? Oh yes…

So, It’s not good enough to shy away from the tricky subjects, including sex education, politics, modern history, religion and climate change. These are things affecting are lives in the 21st century and there should be more emphasis on them. Dropping climate change from the curriculum is a regressive step and is another reason why this Government is very far from being the ‘greenest governement ever’.



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