On 27 June 2011 I emailed a bunch of my friends (it was in pre-blog days) saying:
I'm just back from the Sunday Times Festival of Education at Wellington College in Berkshire where Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, spoke. I managed to put a question to him as part of the Q&A that followed and I thought you might be interested to hear his response as it indicates the government's position on climate change, both in the curriculum and outside it.
This was my question: "The Chief Government Scientist, Sir John Beddington, has said that by 2030 we will be in the midst of a perfect storm made up of climate change, the end of cheap energy, environmental degradation, population growth and a hugely stressed economy. In the light of this, the future that we are educating this present generation for, how can you consider removing climate change from the curriculum?".
Answer (from my notes made afterwards): "Many competing 'causes' want to be in the curriculum and schools should be free to choose what they teach. In the 1980s scientists thought that increased CO2 in the atmosphere would lead to an ice age and they were proved wrong. Given the fact that we do not know what the future holds we need to teach young people to cope with challenges that we currently can't even imagine. Skills such as critical thinking, analysis of facts and figures, understanding of science etc. are more important than curriculum content."
In answering a later question he referred back to mine by saying that climate change ranks alongside issues such as obesity and gun crime as a social ill. I later reflected that in preparing for the impact of climate change, peak oil etc. on the economy politicians are caught up in global trends and events over which they have no control and therefore find it difficult to take action. It’s also clear that many schools look to the government to give them a steer over what is and what is not required to be taught, so removing climate change from the curriculum relieves the obligation to teach it.
Fast forward to this Tuesday, March 20th, at Baden Powell House in London. The membership organization SEEd (Sustainability and Environmental Education) http://www.se-ed.co.uk/ convened a workshop of educators to dive a bit deeper into the evolving National Curriculum Review and see if there is any mention of sustainability.