Education

 

The following comment from JunkkMale originally appeared on the What the hell are we doing to out children? thread. Given the dramatic news it contains, it seems to deserve a thread of its own. Also, with the suggestion from an influential government advisor that global warming should now be removed from the national curriculum and schools should be allowed to decide for themselves how they want to deal with the subject, it would seem that JunkkMale’s concerns are still very much on the agenda. In fact that they were very much in advance of their time.

I want to make it quite clear that the discussion here is not to be about private education versus state education. The issues that made the old thread so successful, and that I hope will be given more attention here, do not concern where children are taught, but what and how they are taught, with particular attention to the extent to which political expediency and fashion should influence education, if at all.

Seems longer.

It was only back in October of last year that a simple question inspired a thread post of mine that was kindly picked up and elevated by the site owner to a thread of its own.

Beyond the exchanges here, much has happened in the area of kids’ education; sadly little I can honestly say that is too encouraging.

But there does seem to be a sense of good folk no longer being too busy, or easily dismissed into doing nothing. Certainly complemented by many with a lot to say!

However the struggle is real, frustrating and exhausting. Despite the awesome power and opportunities presented by the internet, more traditional mechanisms of policy and information seem still to thrive and dominate.

One thing in particular I have noticed (not least from personal experience) is the removal of accountability. And with that, from Minister to public media, the means of check and balance have been seriously eroded.

I still await answers to questions on education claims made by Philip Hammond and Alistair Darling, and have seen challenges to claims made in print and broadcast either ignored or, in two cases, share the same ‘considered’ reply that the input was noted but not felt enough to act upon. Plus, of course, still no word at all from the AQA or the publishers, despite repeated requests. And senior state educationalists on how, precisely, a child who knows their science can rationalise facts with dogma.

Words are cheap. Actions count more.

I have that small question to thank for one my family has now taken.

It alerted me to take a greater interest in my sons’ education, from the teaching methods to the impositions of curricula from ‘on high’, to woefully poor exam questions that not only are unanswerable but also point to a very skewed attitude on the whole topic of state education.

The secondary school my boys are at was and is a good one. I believe the staff do their best with what they have got. And I have been happy to try and work with them to help improve matters.

But some things are too important to risk. And time, to allow the grinding mechanisms of public sector self-assessment to become more constructively critical, much less change, is a window too small to let pass because of any social idealism.

In September my two sons start at an independent school; one where, from the head down, the dedication is to getting the kids a great education in the basics so that, when the time is right, they have the necessary building blocks to make their own decisions, as well and as objectively informed as we can make them.

It took a lot of soul-searching, and a major amount of family budget re-juggling, but I hope it will be worth it.

This thread need not expire at all, as the education of all our kids is too vital to let any compromise become the norm by simply getting tolerated, but I’d like to thank all here who have shared my journey thus far, and helped in getting me to come to the only course I think I could rationally make.

I’ve moved some comments here from the old thread to this one.

65 Responses to “Children, schools, and climate change: the next stage”

  1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/8680088/Richard-Pike.html

    Pike had little doubt that the problem was perverse incentives which give politicians, examining bodies, quangos and schools a vested interest in maintaining low standards, creating a disastrous “race to the bottom”.

  2. No comment, I simply share as it is ‘doing the rounds’.

    http://jackstilgoe.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/whats-the-point-of-science-education/

    My boys started their new school last week. So far… utterly loathing it. The missus and I feel like we’re helping them through cold turkey. Just hoping there will be benefits that evolve… soon.. and they come to appreciate them. The posted Oxbridge results alone in sciences are a reason for optimism.

    Being a bad dad for trying to give them a better opportunity to learn is no fun, he says, ruefully.

  3. Another link simply to see more discussion…

    http://bengoldacre.posterous.com/three-things-we-have-to-teach-in-schools

  4. All Welsh secondary schools are to be sent a free education pack: “Adapting to Climate Change in Wales”. There’s an article at
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/sep/20/wales-climate-change-schools-education
    with a link to the document. There’s less than four pages on “the science” all taken from the IPCC. Here are two quotes:

    “Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere significantly increased around 1900. This coincided with the Industrial Revolution. At this time, levels rose from about 250 parts per million to more than 375 parts per million”.
    and:
    “Did you know? Most of the world’s major cities lie less than 1m above sea level???”

    I count four glaring errors in four sentences.

  5. All Welsh secondary schools are to be sent a free education pack: “Adapting to Climate Change in Wales”. There’s an article at
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/sep/20/wales-climate-change-schools-education
    with a link to the document. There’s less than four pages on “the science” all taken from the IPCC. Here are two quotes:

    “Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere significantly increased around 1900. This coincided with the Industrial Revolution. At this time, levels rose from about 250 parts per million to more than 375 parts per million”.
    and:
    “Did you know? Most of the world’s major cities lie less than 1m above sea level???”

    I count four glaring errors in four sentences.

  6. Here’s another Graun article out today:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/sep/20/children-learn-environment-co-operative

    Children are so concerned about the environment they would rather learn about it than traditional subjects such as science and history, a survey found today.

    The environment as an alternative to science and history. And this is stated without the slightest hint of irony.

  7. 31
    geoffchambers Says:
    September 20th, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I count four glaring errors in four sentences.

    If so, that is quite serious, especially when taken in combination with your 32.

    When does a ‘teaching resource’ filter through into what is examined? Because 4 errors is the difference in a grade at least.

    As I watch Johnny Ball with the Irish ‘celebrity presenter’ on SKY saying that ‘maths is boring and no one uses it’, I then turn to this…

    ‘Earlier this year, for example, we heard from Johnny Ball, the veteran children’s television presenter, who claimed that pupils are being made to watch films about climate change at school which are “unscientific, alarmist nonsense”. I asked him, and the Department of Education, to expand on this – and I also asked readers to provide examples – but I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with concrete evidence of this actually being the case.’

    Mr. Hickman tries to push a schtick as a ‘pretty straight kind of guy, with a wide-eyed ‘who, me?’ innocence that really does not tally with his words and deeds.

    The reason he was not exactly overwhelmed’ was because his paper’s censors made darn sure that any any that did not suit was referred. I, know, as I was one.

    And that is as sinister as it gets if those in authority get their views only from the Graun (or the BBC).

  8. 32
    Alex Cull Says:
    September 20th, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    The environment as an alternative to science and history. And this is stated without the slightest hint of irony.

    And what is that saying about those not learning from history?

    I repeat…

    At least the comments here seem to not be going the way perhaps hoped.

  9. 33
    JunkkMale Says:
    September 21st, 2011 at 6:58 am

    And that is as sinister as it gets if those in authority get their views only from the Graun (or the BBC).

    Wrote that before I skimmed the piece.

    Seems it was written by a BBC weatherman, whose qualifications I looked up. Interesting.

  10. Apols – not author. Merely writer of the forward.

    Can’t seem to locate yet, who the author(s) are, precisely.

  11. History has a lot to share about science, as science has over the current environmental issues that we are facing today. It is but only right to teach our children about it.

  12. 37
    Centrifugal Pump Says:
    September 21st, 2011 at 5:10 pm
    History has a lot to share about science, as science has over the current environmental issues that we are facing today. It is but only right to teach our children about it.

    No doubt on all counts. As to what our kids get taught, I believe (legitimate) concerns are more on the balance, and there does seem a swing from one area to another.

    If one looks at a fanciful projection, if such a trend continues unchecked, soon history will have no new science to observe and share and discuss if all ends up devoted solely to the topic of history.

    And while I love history as a topic, I think the ‘B’ Ark world of H2G2 is a less than inspiring prospect.

  13. One can try and run, but they do like to pursue…

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/exam-board-to-penalise-private-school-pupils-2361429.html

    I have asked the new school for reassurance, and my MP to explain.

    It better be a good one, if he is hoping his party (or any this operates under) will get our votes in future.

    AQA is, of course, the board that kicked all this thread off… by having no clue on science, and trying to drag our kids into their dogma-driven mire in the process.

  14. Sesame Street focuses on math, science, and engineering http://is.gd/Vkrhra

    Interesting. Maybe UK parents may look here for a their kids’ education vs. many schools or Unis.

  15. Lest any feel that teachers on the front line are having it any easier, I proffer this rather astounding tale:

    http://community.tes.co.uk/forums/t/520502.aspx?s_cid=Mon_news_COM

  16. @JunkkMale, it is a rather unsettling account. However, as one commentator puts it, “I imagine that fraud of this kind is relatively commonplace as ethics go out of the window in an attempt to tick boxes”. Which I think is true, and not only in education.

  17. A few familiar protagonists crop up in this tale of an ill-wind…

    I was more interested in the sources and direction of funding, as this pertains to the odd priorities often inflicted on our kids and their educations to serve others and their visions.

    Luckily, it would appear the lost cost will not detract from the educational needs of this school’s children.

    At least directly. Along with ALL children, there will be slightly less in the kitty thanks to this indulgence by virtue of us all chipping in to the various grants alluded to.

    What’s the betting a lot of folk earned a fair whack over this before a blade turned, and will again with any accountability.

  18. JunkMale

    This Canadian study may interest you.

    A study related to motivating adolescents to sustainable behavior states:
    http://www.environment.uwaterloo.ca/ers/research/490s/documents/T.ChengD.Woon491.pdf

    Message framing, based on the prospect theory in psychology, is used in social marketing to manipulate perceived behavioural outcomes and has proved successful

    Under the rationalizations for the need for a social marketing campaign to engrain the principles of environmental sustainability into the behavior of adolescents, the report states:

    Rising awareness of the effects of human resource consumption on the biosphere has alerted humanity to our role in modern environmental problems, including climate change, deforestation, oil shortages, acid rain, waste disposal, habitat loss, and air and water pollution. As a result, the environmental crisis is becoming increasingly recognized as a social, economic, and political problem which requires a solution that involves actions and initiatives geared towards environmental sustainability at both the individual and collective level.

    and

    In terms of individual level factors, widespread behavioural change throughout the population is necessary to stem the environmental crisis

    Under “threats” (both social and physical) as a motivational factor, the authors write:

    The concept of social and physical threats is derived from similar threat types used in fear appeals. Fear appeals, a strategy commonly used in social marketing, have been studied for decades and have been supported by research that demonstrate the effectiveness of fear arousal in influencing behavioural change

    Move over, Big Brother…

    Cheers.

    Max

  19. @Max, that is a rather sinister study, is it not – note the casual use of a certain word here (emphasis mine):

    Older adolescents who already drive at a high frequency have significantly more positive attitudes towards driving and are more likely to believe that reducing personal vehicle use would not benefit the environment. More analyses are needed to test the strength of this correlation; nonetheless, initial findings suggest that this group may be more resistant to change and the indoctrination of sustainable transportation behaviours should begin before adolescents are of eligible driving age.

    So, according to the paper, “loss-framed messages” (“if you do not recycle, the environment will deteriorate”) are indicated, along with a strategy of indoctrinating kids while they are young and impressionable.

    This I found amusing (we adults evidently lack knowledge or first-hand experience of public transport, so clueless are we):

    Another important influence on the future driving behaviour of adolescents may be parental driving habits. Educating parents of the merits and safety of alternative transportation and the personal and environmental consequences of personal vehicle use may have a substantial impact on adolescents’ future driving behaviour.

    Some reasons to be cheerful, however:

    The most cited factor that would convince them to reduce driving habits and to choose alternatives was improved infrastructure for alternative options, especially more convenient public transportation. This suggests that the major motivation for adolescents to choose alternatives may be personal benefits and costs, rather than a strong concern for environmental sustainability. Participants on the whole did not perceive personal vehicle use as an unsustainable behaviour.

    Disturbing signs of rationality, in other words. There’s hope for the young ‘uns yet!

  20. I often wonder at the resources committed behind such studies, and with what goal(s) in mind.

    Especially when, on matters child, the results often don’t seem anything the average parent couldn’t tell you.

    But kids can also come up with gems.

    My two were watching the social messaging from the Washington protests quoted on news, and noting that it appeared some consumer trend products seemed quite in vogue (along with the travel commitment of many young UK activists), and some billionaires who make ’em seemed more acceptable than others.

    As one keen on the half shandy whilst nagging on the evils of demon drink, I can testify it is not a generation unattuned to rampant hypocrisy.

  21. href=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/8817321/My-eco-child-will-denounce-me-one-day-for-not-recycling.html”>My eco-child will denounce me one day for not recycling

    It is inevitable, but still a shame, that when an issue gets tested it gets polarised.

    Hence for every bonkers imposition, there is an equally daft response, usually from a media that knows a bandwagon that can be flogged for the sake of a few ratings.

    The author has a point, but her manner of making it is awful.

    The notion of some luvvie parent in her ivory tower being surprised and hijacked by their child in the manner described is, typically, bonkers but credible.

    My two were/are taught stuff. Beyond having brains enough to ask questions on the spot and make their own minds up (teachers are no more immune than parents if skating on thin ice logically), such things were also shared and discussed at home.

    On top of which, parentally, them telling me how our family should live its life via school borne edict was and will not ever fly.

    However, the underlying disquiet on what is shared at schools, and why, and how, is well taken.

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