Since 1995, climate change and topical scientific issues have been a part of England’s national curriculum for 5-16 year olds. This past year, however, government curriculum advisor Tom Oates is pushing for a change. He recently proposed a drastic reduction of the science syllabus, with climate change on the chopping block. His explanation? “Oxidation and gravity don’t date.” Oates believes that science in the classroom should remain true to the core principles, urging the board “to get the science back in science.”
Oates seems to be overlooking some of the key elements of science, and of education as a whole. Annette Smith, the CEO of the Association for Science Education said to The Guardian, “What I wouldn’t want to lose from the national curriculum is the idea that science is developing all the time and that it impinges on our lives.” Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment stated “an emphasis on climate change in the curriculum connects the core scientific concepts to topical issues.” Ward’s argument is in agreeance with teachers across England- and they have a point- that this particular cut to the curriculum undermines the fundamentals of learning and stirs the pot of an already controversial issue.
Oates’ stance on the issue creates an interesting parallel. Much of the debate on whether or not climate change is classroom-appropriate feels all too similar to the infamous creationism vs. evolution debate. This is especially exemplified in Texas and Louisiana, USA, states who have both deemed it mandatory for climate change denial to be taught in school. It seems that climate change is becoming less of a scientific observation and more of a believe-it-or-not blame game. A survey conducted by the National Science Teachers Association on climate change skepticism showed that 26% came from administrators, 54% from parents, and 82% from the students themselves! This vast range of uncertainty suggests that the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) now has a new battle to face.
“The anti-climate change controversy is about where the antievolution controversy was 20 years ago. We’ve learned a lot—we including the scientific community—dealing with the evolution controversy and, with luck, maybe we can get ahead of this.” -Eugene Scott, executive director of NCSE.
Amongst all the taboo topics reaching the ears of students today, this one is definitely unexpected. For the sake of the students, teachers and climate scientists of the world, I certainly hope that the importance of understanding and learning from our world will lead us out of this catastrophe.