Thursday, September 15, 2011

Global Warming Education

Offspring #3 (aged 12), arrived home from school yesterday to tell us that during that day's Citizenship lesson (and yes, how we managed without that when we were at school I don't know), the teacher had been waxing lyrical about global warming. In particular the teacher had talked about those who deny the reality of what they can see with their own eyes - higher temperatures, melting ice caps etc. These deniers, the teacher said, were denying because they didn't want to change their own selfish ways of life.

Forget the fact that the teacher is an English teacher, with no apparent scientific understanding of the issue. Forget the blatant propaganda for what is at best a hypothesis - and an increasingly ropey one at that. What is interesting is the response of the kids. Nobody, not even our offspring, dared venture a contrary view.

Why not, we asked? Because nobody wanted to be seen as different. At age 12 peer pressure and the need for conformity are very powerful forces. And, in a boy's comprehensive at the rougher end of the borough, standing up to argue that AGW is an unproven hypothesis that is not accepted by every scientist in the world is a tough call. In the past our offspring have tried various tactics, including appeals to authority ('both my parents have PhDs and they don't believe in global warming, sir'), outright denial or pointing to contrary evidence ('but temperatures aren't going up, miss'). All to no avail. The objections are ignored for the most part, and most of the kids either don't care or think our children are weird.

So far offspring #3 has not been subjected to Al Gore's propaganda video, our other children were each subjected to the film, in one case on three separate occassions. But the film continues by other means, it's there in the hymn sheet in Citizenship classes, all that was missing were the visuals.

We suggested going to the school to discuss the issue with the teacher. Nope, not acceptable to sprog, who was afraid it would draw too much attention. What about writing a letter to the school? Nope. In the end we are left with the only acceptable course of action, which is to mention it in passing during the next parents evening.

Notice how fear of drawing attention, of outward non-conformity, helps the AGW cause here. The subject pervades education and makes an appearance at all levels of education - from primary through to university. At school it features in Science, English, Citizenship/PSHE and Religious Education. By the time kids leave school they will have endured years and years of it, with no outward displays of dispute. When our children have told their friends that they don't believe in it (or have doubts, or that their parents don't believe in it), they are met with incredulity. How can it be possible to disagree with such a self-evident truth?

Offspring #1 is now a primary school teacher. She endured the same educational system and learned early on that it's just simpler not to express doubts. During her degree she even had to sit a module on 'Environmental Psychology', which was ultimately about pathologising dissent. The underlying truth of AGW being accepted and that therefore anyone expressing doubt must be defective in some way. Topics included how best to convince people of the AGW gospel, particularly in regards to educating children. And now, as a teacher in a state primary school with an intake that is barely socialised, she is pressured to teach children who are often illiterate and innumerate the truth about the horrors of CO2.

Despite the fact that the evidence continues to diverge from the theory, the AGW hyopthesis is so firmly entrenched in education that nothing short of an ice age will dislodge it.

This is profoundly depressing, of course, but then I guess this must be a symptom of my defective psychology at work...


Anonymous said...

The [little] ice age is starting right now:

Contrarian said...

It's a scary prospect for sure. But when people can stand up and talk about increasing global temperatures so far into a long period of stable or declining tempratures, you have to wonder how deep the snow will have to get before it pierces the protective shell of conformation bias...