Challenging climate change education is not the answer

BBC NEWS | Education | Law challenge to Gore school film
A father from Kent is challenging in the courts a DfES decision to send copies of Al Gore’s Oscar winning film on Climate Change to every secondary school in England. ‘An inconvenient truth’ is, by its nature, a political film, but DfES points to a clear scientific consensus on global warming.

One can sympathise with the father from Kent’s view. He clearly either doesn’t believe in global warming, or thinks its importance is overrated, or believes that it’s not the sort of thing we should be scaring children with. He may well have grown up (in fact, he probably did) during the Cold War, when we believed that nuclear war was imminent. Many young people had nightmares about the destruction of mankind, but it never happened.

Should this generation of children be put through all of that again? This seems to be rather the theme of the week — just a couple of days ago someone was on the radio saying that we should stop talking about obesity, because it upset fat children (and their parents).

It would be crass to spell out exactly what I think of that kind of thinking. Of course people get upset when you talk about upsetting subjects.

But let us imagine that there is something more to the man’s challenge than merely that, and I think it is this: the question of whether politicians should be allowed to determine what children are taught in schools. On the face of it, this could almost be one of the great misguided rallying cries of the modern world — let teachers determine education policy, let doctors determine health policy, let industrialists determine industrial policy. It all sounds very good, until you recognise that all these people are unelected. They may be highly expert, but they are not accountable.

There is a touching simplicity in saying “politicians should not determine education policy, it should be determined by the courts”, which is what the man is effectively doing. But it is a simplicity of nonsense.

For better or for worse, in a democracy, we do and should rely on those we elect to lead the way.

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