Turning kids’ heads a mushy green
Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth was weaponised to indoctrinate school kids. A new and glossier climate-indoctrination movie is now being inserted into classrooms, starting with Australia and New Zealand.
Australian schools in the past decade have forced literally millions of kids to watch Al Gore’s error-riddled propaganda movie, An Inconvenient Truth. In 2007 an outraged English truck driver and parent took the education minister to the High Court in 2007 over the film’s gross inaccuracies, with Justice Burton ordering UK teachers must not show it without first warning kids it is politically partisan and contains nine significant errors. Those include Gore’s absurd claim that many low-lying Pacific island populations had already been evacuated to New Zealand. Despite his vast wealth, Gore has never edited prints of his film to remove the errors.
No such mandatory warnings have accompanied Australian screenings. The Australian Academy of Science, our supposed bulwark against science misinformation, has made no objection to the brainwashing, although its president rushed to condemn a sceptic equivalent film in 2007.
The propaganda cycle is now being repeated. Kids in class are being drenched with Damon Gameau’s saccharine documentary 2040 about purported solutions to a purported climate crisis. The film doesn’t actually tell kids, “Vote Green”, but it calls for strong new political leadership. “Wouldn’t it be terrific if new leaders emerge who could navigate us to a better 2040,” Gameau hints.
Pushing the film into classrooms is Cool Australia, which has provided teachers with at least 32 ready-to-use lessons based on the documentary. The film is backed and part-funded by bedfellows, the Australian and Victorian governments.
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Gameau reveals his inner Zeitgeist in interviews, which include an urge to re-shape our democratic ways. He imagines a “shift from a society built upon industry to a life-sustaining civilisation” which he called “The Great Turning”. As he spoke at Byron Bay (where else?) a year ago, a certain Olivia Rosebery “boldly stood in the audience” and sang her own song, ‘No more need for greed and hunger if we respect the Mother’s ways.’”
In an interview last May regarding COVID-19, he likes all the “silver linings”. He says,
Do we really need all these things, this excess of all these things we’re told are going to make us happy? In fact, I’m happier with a lot less of this stuff. And that excess is the very thing that would be destroying us ecologically…. So, I think that’s been a great win. So, how do we take this time to now rebuild with a lot more resilience … with food or energy or even our democracy. This is the time to have those discussions and think quite radically. And thankfully some countries and regions around the world are doing that.
Interviewer: What is bringing you hope during these unprecedented times?
Gameau: I would say, the fact that we do have closed shops, the streets are empty and we’ve got these silent skies. I think that’s a clue that we do care about each other, somewhere deep down…
As a documentary, his 2040 would normally be laughed away, but played in class to susceptible kids from about age 6 upwards, it’s pernicious. He’s also happy to do speeches on how to save the planet. But, “Please note that a speaker fee will be applicable.”
This essay will first detail the workings of leftist lobby Cool Australia, then analyse the content of 2040.
Few parents know that Education Departments around Australia have farmed out much of their kids’ schooling to green/Left lobbies. The most significant is Cool Australia, operating in 8400 primary and secondary schools — 90 per cent of all schools. Nearly half our teachers use the lessons, downloading them 2.1 million of them last year.[i]
Cool Australia delivers’s a win-win for everyone except Coalition supporters. Its agenda is anti-capitalism, anti-growth, and anti-coal, gas and petroleum. It’s pro the re-writing of the Constitution for the benefit of the Aboriginal industry, and watering down our Western heritage in favor of a licorice allsorts multi-culturalism. Cool Australia’s CEO and founder, Jason Kimberley, boasts how Cool turns kids into green activists, whether or not they’ve yet learnt to tie their shoelaces.[ii] The video below shows how it’s done.https://www.youtube.com/embed/arfjqWQf1-A?feature=oembed
While most of Cool Australia’s ready-to-use topics are innocuous or praiseworthy, recall that the Antifa and BLM mobs now torching US cities are “mostly peaceful”. Our kids are lining up as Greens cadets, demanding “zero carbon” and the up-ending of two centuries of capitalist progress. Another example is Cool Australia’s foisting the anarchism of dark-green Canadian raver Naomi Klein onto teens and pre-teens.
I’ve been documenting Cool Australia’s work for half a decade (here, here, here) and have noticed how the organisation has ratcheted up in the past year by pushing into classes a barking-mad climate “documentary” called 2040. The film, after five years’ gestation, sports high production values, cute actors and storyline. It’s had respectful reviews in the New York Times and LA Times and, according to Gameau, ‘the UN is going to show three minutes [of it] to all world leaders’. Taxpayers paid for some of it via the Australian Government and Screen Australia and the Victorian Government and Film Victoria.[iii] Below is a sample of what taxpayers got for their money.https://www.youtube.com/embed/p-rTQ443akE?feature=oembed
Cool’s 32 lessons are half an hour or more.[iv] Add the kids’ viewing of the entire 92-minute film, and a typical nipper might tangle with this travesty for a full day of school. Never mind the 3Rs, where Australian kids’ performance is sliding internationally.
The Cool Australia charity was founded in 2008 by Just Jeans heir[v] and climate alarmist Jason Kimberley, now teamed with leftist warriors including WWF, Earth Hour and the Human Rights Commission, and titans like Google, Atlassian and Foxtel. Cool Australia gets into classes on-line with 1400 ready-to-use lessons tapped by 120,000 teachers for 3.2 million kids.
Cool Australia has only eight full-time staff, $1.3 million in revenue (none from government) and a flock of savvy pedagogues. (Charity watchdog ChangePath rates it zero stars out of three for transparency). But Cool Australia has leveraged its way into almost all schools by mapping its free lessons according to teachers’ required curricula. Because of a mandatory cross-curricula priority for “sustainability”, Cool Australia is pushing against an open door. The priorities were designed in 2008-09 by Julia Gillard and state Labor governments.
At a recent gathering with Cool Australia, the former president of the Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos, is quoted by Jason Kimberley, “Only UNICEF has a greater school’s penetration and they had a 50-year head start … You are, quite seriously, the good guys in education.”
Cool Australia saves teachers 1.65 million hours of lesson-preparations yearly, and plugs the yawning holes in their worldly knowledge with its own climate, refugee, “global citizenship” and gender tropes. Teachers love it, since about 45 per cent of them are teaching outside their expertise and three-quarters complain of unmanageable workloads. Says one teacher: “I haven’t touched Geography since the mid 1980s, and there I was, explaining resources – with an eventual focus on water – to Year 7! Cool Australia rescued me at a time of dire need and ever so slight panic.”
The Human Rights Commission is notorious for its years-long persecution of innocent Queensland University of Technology students who complained on social media about being kicked out of an Indigenous-only computer room.[vi] Cool Australia quotes ex-HRC head Gillian Triggs, “With values such as empathy, collaboration and real world learning there [has been] a close synergy with Cool Australia. In just a few months, our animated video, interactive time-line and lesson plans reached more than 1,200 schools.” This HRC grievance-mongering involved 640,000 students and 14,000 lessons.
Cool Australia’s overt goal is to turn kids into child soldiers in the culture wars, via its “unique action-based pedagogy”. Jason Kimberley says, “Cool Australia’s role is to educate in a way that empowers young people to take agency and tackle the many challenges that urgently require twenty-first century skills. Our focus is always on what can be done.”
Cool Australia’s surveys show that after absorbing its materials, 70 to 80 per cent of kids adopt its positions, change their behaviour towards social and environmental issues, and are ready “to take action”. Here’s from a set of guides for 10-to-12 12 year olds, most unable or unwilling to put their singlets in the wash.
Step 1: Think about some of the big issues that are facing the world at the moment. How can we ensure that the world’s population can have its basic needs around food, water, housing, clothing, employment, education and health met whilst also looking after the environment and reducing the effects of climate change? … Your idea could aim to make a change in your house, your street, your school or your neighbourhood.
A mainstream Cool Australia cause is Earth Hour, when the woke folk dispense with electricity for 60 minutes (renewables’ unreliability is already achieving that). But Cool Australia’s Earth Hour folderol by last year had reached 2.3 million kids via 50,000 downloaded lessons.[vii]
Now let’s get back to the 2040 doco. By time travelling into the future, the film can pretend that every green policy works. Make way for rainbows and unicorn stampedes! Its climate solutions include swapping steaks for seaweed and pulling down levels of evil CO2 to return the atmosphere to 350ppm CO2 (now 412ppm). That’s some feat.
To scare and prime the kids, the perceived status quo is from Al Gore’s climate-porn: allegedly CO2-caused cyclones, floods, droughts, acid oceans, bushfires, melted ice-caps and those long-foreseen but invisible millions of climate refugees. While touting its message as positive, there’s enough doom-talk in this film to give kids and even credulous adults a lot of what Gameau calls “climate grief”.
The end-result of the solutions in 2040 is ecstatic kids literally playing ring-a-rosy in the park (I’m not making that up) and birds twittering in a car-less CBD (ditto). Car parks become vege plots and push-bikers wave to sharers of electric driverless cars. Trucks? Who needs those when we live in green self-sufficient communes?
In the plotline 2040‘s protagonist helps his real-life 4-year-old daughter, Velvet, to navigate through climate perils to his 20-years-hence nirvana. He spends half the film in airports and planes to Bangladesh, Stockholm etc. He’s begged off the guilts by using carbon credits and planting a few trees to save 90 tonnes of CO2 by 2040. China happens to be putting out 10 billion tonnes CO2 a year, but Gameau doesn’t mention China once. Here’s how director Gameau shows kids how to deal with sceptics.
# Governments spend $10 million a minute subsidising fossil fuels.
He doesn’t say which governments or which currency, but it looks like $A5.3 trillion a year. Australia’s total GDP is only $2 trillion.
# US fossil fuel vested interests are now spending $US1 billion a year preventing us from lowering emissions, using the tobacco-lobby playbook of creating doubt and confusion.
This $US1 billion appears sourced from a debunked 2013 paper by “environmental sociologist” Robert J. Brulle in the journal Climatic Change.[viii] He added up the total spending of 91 US conservative organisations instead of their fractional spending on climate, and mysteriously lumped even arch alarmist James Hansen among his list of “deniers”.[ix]The tobacco analogy is febrile hand-waving from Naomi Oreskes in her Merchant of Doubttract, 2010.
# Sceptics create websites full of misinformation like claiming the science is not settled and that climate-peril is a religion.
No science is settled, as Einstein would vouch. The IPCC’s now-disgraced skirt-chasingleader Rajendra Pachauri himself said his cause was religious.[x]
# Exxon-Mobil finances multiple “denier” groups to make it look like “denialism” has broad support.
The oil giant funded 43 skeptic groups with a total $US16 million from 1998 to 2005. That was $US260,000 a year per group and it ceased 15 years ago. For perspective, Australia’s climate princess, Dr Joelle “Paper Withdrawn” Gergis, got $A692,000 taxpayer money just for one study, which she had to retract in 2012 because of statistical flaws pointed out by skeptics, and she re-did it over the subsequent four years 2013-16. Renewables are now a $US1.5 trillion per year juggernaut. Meanwhile, world-leading skeptic bloggers like JoNova (Perth), Paul Homewood (UK) and Anthony Watts (US) mostly live off tip jars.
# “Deniers” create algorithms and “bots” masquerading as humans to populate the web with climate falsehoods.
The source list points to a 2011 blog post. Its content is just nuts].
The film’s “fact-based dreaming” has spooky or inspirational music to reinforce its messages. It starts with Gameau’s house getting filled with choking smoke after he stokes his fireplace. That represents rising CO2. He mourns that little daughter Velvet will be facing “a deteriorating environment” as ice caps “melt faster than scientists predicted”. That’s odd as the Arctic ice extent has been stable for half a decade and the Antarctic is cooling, not heating.
The oceans, which are alkaline anyway, we’re told are getting so acidic that its animals struggle to make their shells (nonsense). In fact NOAA concedes the historic ocean pH measurements are unreliable, so no conclusions are possible.[xi]
Sea rise, continues the flick, threatens “hundreds of millions” of people. (The UNEP in 2005 predicted a 50 million horde of climate refugees by 2010. When none showed up, it sneakily changed their arrival date to 2020. Now they’d better advance it again to 2030).
Every ten minutes Gameau interviews some of his 100-kid stockpile in the six-to-eleven age bracket, and they repeat memes from adults, like
Ten-year-old girl: “I would like for the government to have done something on global warming and pollution as now I think they are not really doing anything about it.” [Except waste $US1 trillion a year].
“I don’t want to see people eating meat because that is from animals.” [Gameau says we’ll be salivating over “pretty convincing” meat substitutes].
“The sea looks like a big big mess.”
“The beach would not be the same if you could not swim in the water and whales are all gone.”
“I wish they would stop killing off animals and forests like that. That would be cool.”
Gameau comments without irony: “It’s sobering to learn how pre-occupied kids are with the state of the planet.”
Daughter Velvet, berates a guilty adult: “What were you guys thinking?”
Adult (shame-facedly): “Well sometimes we weren’t.”
Gameau’s first solution is from Bangladesh (would we all just love to live like Bangladeshis? OK, probably not), which he celebrates for deploying “solar microgrids” powering what looks like 15W light globes. (The others enjoy fossil-fired mains 220V power. Renewables in Bangladesh are currently 2.5 per cent of its electricity capacity, and the renewables target is only 10 per cent.[xii] Mustn’t tell schoolkids that inconvenient truth, Mr Gameau.
His narrative also claims that somehow we will get those all-important solar household batteries “so cheap you are not even going to notice”. The cost of a battery system: currently between $2000 and $20,000., which are certainly numbers large even to be noticed. Many countries, he dreams, could be close to 100 per cent renewables by 2040, presumably when the sun will be shining at night and the wind never stops.
He trots out a succession of “experts”, like Oxford’s Dr Kate Raworth. She’s a “renegade economist” and “the brain behind the widely influential theory of Doughnut Economics.” She plans for a free economy where the value created is shared more equitably, granting prosperity to everyone in the world without climate change or pollution, the film says.
Cars are scrapped or converted to electric drive (wow, what would the mechanic charge?). The film provides another of those wonderful ‘peak oil’ forecasts: “If no-one buys (normal) cars, oil demand will peak and go down dramatically and never come back”. We will have “less road rage” and actually hear birds singing in the city. (The flick’s sound editor splices helpfully “tweet, tweet” into the sound-track at this point).
Another of Gameau’s talking heads is author/film-maker Helena Norberg-Hodge, who “has been promoting an economics of personal, social and ecological well-being for more than 30 years.” She pushes purer living patterns in both “North and South” hemispheres, according to her blurb, which explains she mastered her green methods over decades of work in Ladakh, Kashmir, which is famous for its religious mask-dancing and weaving. Her books include Learning from Ladakh and the rather ambitious Schooling the World.
Australian actress, Davini Malcolm, plays a shaman in Gameau’s film. She was born “Lindy” but received the name “Davini” from her Indian spiritual teacher, Osho, in 1994. She went on to help produce and write the 13-part children’s TV Series Teenie Weenie Greenies and do a film, Lotus Birth, of her experience having twins in the bath. The births were preceded by her partner, Peter, and their two boys around the piano singing what the DVD notes call their famous and delightful “fart song”.
In 2040 a glum fellow Eric Toensmeier lectures our kids that “even if we ceased all our human emissions altogether, cut emissions to zero, we would still be toast” because we’ve passed some phony tipping point “and on our way to a point of no return”. So we have to sequester and store existing “carbon” (he means CO2 but only nerds do chemistry). Experts describe how to “flip” global crop and livestock farming to cut emissions through soil regeneration and fence-free cattle grazing. Gameau’s case study is Cole Seis who has reworked his 2000 acres at Shepparton and claims savings of over $2 million – except “I don’t know where the $2 million went,” he says.[xiii]
The future-stepping Velvet explains that someone did get stung for the costs of all this transformation: “Those who polluted our era with excess carbon [she means CO2] had to pay a penalty and the money raised paid farmers to clean our air.” This innovative economic planning is acompanied by vision of “smoke” aka steam, billowing from a coal-fired power station.
Next up is marine permaculture for the oceans “to get the overturning circulation going again”, quite a task. A 100 square kilometre patch of oceanic desert between Australia and America would be switched to permaculture, producing food to stave off those “unprecedented numbers of [climate] refugees”, according to Gameau. Seaweed farms flourish for thousands of kilometres in the Bay of Bengal and around the coast of Africa, contributing to ‘thriving local economies’.
The film’s explanatory notes say, “Kelp and seaweed are nature’s climate warriors … Researchers estimate that if 9 per cent of the world’s ocean surfaces were used for seaweed farming, we would be removing 53 billion tonnes of CO2 per year from the atmosphere.” Hmm, what’s 9 per cent of the oceans? On my estimate, four times the size of Australia. That’s a challenge.
Cool Australia tells kids:
Students will investigate the relationship between seaweed farming, the health benefits of eating seaweed and climate change. They will use this info to develop an infographic that uses numbers to convince their peers to eat more seaweed.
Can we surmise assume Cool Australia founder Jason Kimberley does his bit by lunching on kelp and algae? Somehow I doubt it.
De-commissioned oil rigs, we learn, “become exciting tourist destinations for those keen to explore marine life.” Who needs silly old oil and plastics? Newsreader Angela Pippos is wheeled on to read this fake script: “Big banks continue to take a hit as the public shifts its money away from organisations that support fossil fuels.”
But no flick, even 2040, can be all bad. It earns my one-star review for urging that Third World girls be educated for later marriage and family planning. It shows Nobel Peace-winning Malala Yousafzai saying, “One pen can change the world.” I’d like to know which religionist shot Malala in the head and why, but that’s a message too far for Gameau and Cool Australia.
He closes his concoction with rapturous music and vision of youngsters of all colors and creeds dancing in a hi-tech ambience through a forest. One white-clad 20-something grows from her shoulder-blades giant butterfly wings that actually flap. Gameau rhapsodises that this generation is “celebrating regeneration” (geddit?) because CO2 levels are coming down. This must be the cheesiest movie clip ever made or even imaginable.
Gameau leaves his world-straddling Boeing at the airport and heads home to start planting stuff, as distinct from planting stuff in kids’ heads. There are so many helpers involved in this 92-minute mock epic that ten minutes are needed for the closing credits.
Cheryl Lacey is an education strategist and author of Marching Schools Forward (Connor Court, 2019). She comments:
Whether schools are being used by Al Gore, Cool Australia, Gillard, the Greens, or even the Liberal party, the truth is that schools have become nothing more than a playing field for power and wealth distribution. This ‘child abuse’ isn’t new. Education’s been bastardised for at least 50 years: the Greens especially have deeply penetrated young minds. It’s no surprise that 90% of all schools are buying into Cool Australia’s propaganda. Just print and distribute. No teaching required. As for thinking? Impossible.
Remarks in a Tagespiegel article from Germany last week seem quite applicable to Australian schools. The former Potsdam Climate Institute Director, Prof. Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber is quoted: “The closing of ranks of science and youth in the fight for a new society that is sustainable in its management and living is like a ‘big bang’. We need these heroes and heroines who are not even of age”.
These minors are well organized in their own schools – that is their basis. But something has changed fundamentally. Whereas ten years ago, the climate and environment clubs in the schools themselves were not taken seriously by students and particularly frequented, today they are the smallest units from which mobilization and organization for the big demonstrations are done. (Translation by Pierre Gosselin, Notrickszone)
I know conservative politicians are timid but why are they supporting schools’ campaign for their own extinction?
Tony Thomas’s new book, Come To Think Of It – essays to tickle the brain, is available here as a book ($34.95) or an e-book ($14.95)
[i] Cool Australia Impact Report, 2019
[ii] Impact Report: “The outcome is better engaged students who commit to individual and community action. This approach goes beyond a simple transfer of knowledge. It builds on an individual’s capacity for transformational change.”
[iii] Some items I’ve tracked include Film Victoria: 2018-19, $22,000; 2017-18, $88,000; 2016-17, $10,000. Screen Australia, 2016-17, $15,000 (development), unstated (production).
[iv] In a search, “2040” comes up in 64 lessons
[v] Craig Kimberley sold his Just Jeans empire for $64m in 2001.
[vi] The HRC also trawled for complaints about The Australian’s cartoonist Bill Leak, who died of a heart attack during the furore.
[vii] Cool Australia Impact Report, 2019
[viii] Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations
[ix] Hansen is known as “the father of the global warming movement” from his 1988 testimony to Congress.
[x] Pachauri: ‘For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission. It is my religion and my dharma.’
[xi] The data collected prior to 1989 are typically not well documented and their metadata is incomplete; therefore, such data are of unknown and probably variable quality.
[xii] 48 power plants with a combined generation capacity of 16,875 megawatts (MW) are under construction in Bangladesh. State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid says the power division has been working on uninterrupted, reliable and quality power at reasonable and affordable prices.
[xiii] “Colin Seis discovered a new way of farming after his 2,000-acre family farm burned to the ground in a devastating bushfire. The disaster forced Colin to rethink his approach and develop a radical new farming technique. It was so successful it became a global agricultural movement, known as ‘pasture cropping’.”Show your supportDonate Now
- Stephen Due – 23rd September 2020Serious reform of the State School system could only occur on a geological time-scale. To counter the influence of the State system, Australia needs more independent schools, and that can be achieved within realistic timeframes. State Schools are a socialist system. They grant a measure of control over the education of the child that is dangerous, effectively enabling government-approved propaganda to be forced on children irrespective of the wishes of parents. The notorious Safe Schools program is a prime example. The parent should have control of the education of the child. Independent schools provide real choices for parents and children, without threatening parental authority or the integrity of the family. Free enterprise, not state control, is necessary to provide genuine diversity in schooling and excellence in educational outcomes. One size does not fit all.
For some reason this post reminded me of what I thought was a great talk by Mary O’Grady on ReasonTV that I occasionally listen to on one of my ipods. At seven minutes in she comments on the role of education in Latin America’s troubles.
Tony. I am most surprised that there have not been floods of comments here upon what I consider to be one your most horrific essays. Wholesale indoctrination of Australian youth and the widespread abrogation of responsibility by your teaching profession are to me horrendous developments. Please reassure that at least some countermeasures are in place or being contemplated.
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Sorry but a federal-state gathering in 2008 locked in the “sustainability” priority to schools and greens have used it as a Trojan horse for their propaganda. No State government has yet disowned CAGW so they think Cool’s material is ok. No sign of change on horizon.
There is a danger of underestimating our young folk. Of course schools are an important source of knowledge and at very young ages we are pre-programmed to believe everything we hear. But there are plenty of other sources of knowledge, more now than ever before. And I get the feeling that by the time they are in double digits, children are quite discerning when things don’t add up. These guys have grown up on The Avengers so a bit of CGI is unlikely to impress them.
In middle school I sat on a hard floor every day in assembly, recited a prayer, sang a hymn, listened to a bible story, sang another hymn (often 3 times, until the head thought we had done it well enough), recited the Lord’s Prayer, then filed off to maths or geography. Perhaps I was primed against religion by this, perhaps the head’s attempt at indoctrination was ham fisted. Dunno. But it only took Attenborough’s Life on Earth to turn me into an atheist.
Tis a pity that there’s no alternative viewpoint to Cool Australia. They certainly make the teachers’ lives easier, which I guess is their entire strategy. But I’m still optimistic that the children can escape this trap and when they grow up, get a job, want to buy a car… maybe they’ll see these green fantasies for what they are.
I think the worst thing about this story is the cynical intent shown by those seeking to indoctrinate the young ‘uns. I hope that the result will be less effective than they hope.
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Says the Guardian:
“The government has ordered schools in England not to use resources from organisations which have expressed a desire to end capitalism.”
What was it Churchill said?
“We will fight them in the playgrounds.”
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Jit I have thought long about your positive message but in the end have had to dismiss it. It might be true if there were role models in schools of differing persuasion, but there aren’t. From what Tom reports, there are more likely to be teachers who haven’t even a modicum of knowledge let alone of critical understanding. They have abrogated their responsibilities.
And it matters. Read biography after biography and you will commonly find acknowledgment of a debt owed to some influential teacher who significantly influenced the person early in their life. Will pre-packaged lessons and essentially dispossessed teachers ever fulfil this role?
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Well, there’s not much difference between what’s going on in Oz and in the UK. In schools with multi-denominational pupils the answer to possible problems regarding religious assemblies in school is commonly to have a “green” assembly instead. Goodness knows what that consists of.
Then there’s this sort of thing:
“‘We deserve to be taught about it’: why students want climate crisis classes
Universities are bowing to pressure from their students to include modules on climate breakdown and sustainability”
“In five years’ time, every student at Sheffield University – whether they study maths, music or drama – will also need to get to grips with sustainability. Be it the climate crisis, global poverty or gender inequality, every course will examine some of the major challenges the world faces.
“It isn’t about making musicians into climate scientists,” insists sustainability manager James Merryclough. “This is responding to what our students want and this generation is looking for. We know employers will want these skills too. They’ll want students who understand global challenges, and the macro environment of where they fit into the world.”
Rather than compulsory climate crisis lectures, each academic department will reimagine their curriculums through a sustainable lens. Last year, for example, landscaping students took an in-depth look at the climate drivers behind increased flooding on the East Yorkshire coast, and examined how better planning could reduce risk. Similarly, the university is currently looking at how arts and humanities students can collaborate with scientists, using their skills in words and music to come up with more compelling ways to talk to the public about the global challenges we face.
Sheffield’s initiative is one of many major changes being implemented across UK universities, in response to a student-led campaign to address what campaigners say is a gaping hole across higher education.
This is borne out in a survey of 16-18 year olds published this month by the University of Winchester, which showed that although 54% see climate breakdown as the second biggest threat to the UK (after the quality of the NHS), less than half (46%) rated universities as doing a good job of addressing it.
It’s no longer enough to limit an education on sustainability to those undergraduates who opt for geography or environmental sciences, says Quinn Runkle, director of education at SOS-UK, the sustainability arm of NUS. “It shouldn’t be down to that small proportion of students. This should be a learning entitlement.”
That was the conclusion Teach the Future founder Joe Brindle came to back in 2019. As he embarked on his final year of college a 17-year-old Brindle, who had organised school climate strikes, realised none of what he’d learned had come via his formal education.
“Climate breakdown will greatly determine the future of me and my peers, but we haven’t been prepared for it at all,” he says. “It feels like education is failing if it’s not preparing us for our future.”
His research has found that just 4% of students feel well-informed about the climate crisis, but 68% say they want to learn more.
In October last year, Brindle travelled to London with his mum, a teacher, to the National Education Union’s (NEU) climate emergency conference. There, in front of hundreds of teachers, students and parents, he formally launched Teach the Future, setting out his plan for an overhaul of education at both schools and universities. “They instantly saw that what we were asking for was really important,” he says.
What Teach the Future is asking for is threefold: a review by the Department of Education into whether current teaching on the climate crisis is good enough (“we’re pretty sure the conclusion will be no,” says Brindle), for all teacher training to include mandatory lessons on sustainability, and – most significant of all – for the implementation of the Climate Emergency Education Bill, a draft bill submitted in February which includes a requirement for all education providers to teach students about the climate crisis.
“It isn’t only the right thing to do for the planet,” insists Brindle. “It’s the right thing for students. Whatever job you go into – whether a farmer, a builder or a banker – you’re going to need to understand the climate crisis in this modern world.”
Some universities are already taking this message on board. As part of its new carbon neutral plan – which saw beef banned from campus outlets and divestment from fossil fuels – Goldsmiths has committed to “greening” its curriculum by 2021. Its new MA in art and ecology will teach artists to express ideas around climate breakdown, pollution and biodiversity loss in their creative work……..”.
The brainwashing is almost complete.
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I did my postgraduate studies back in the 70s at Sussex University. The other day I visited the home page of my erstwhile department (Physics and Astronomy) to see what they were up to nowadays. I expected to see a headline capability statement outlining what courses, facilities and specialisations were on offer. This is the homepage statement of the physics department:
“The School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences absolutely and fully condemns racism in all its forms, and we wish to express our outright support for the Black Lives Matter movement. We are deeply shocked by the killing of George Floyd, and are dismayed by the violence used against those protesting the action.
At the same time, we recognize how racism is embedded within the UK, including within its university system. Racism can assume many forms. Often unintentional, it can be subtle or it can be obvious. It’s outcomes include, for example, the under-representation of black professors, and the award gap. Too often we do not, or choose not to, see the injustices that happen in front of our eyes. We recognise that as an academic community we have a particular responsibility to lead the necessary changes by our own example.
It is our utmost wish that every member of our community feels valued and is able to reach their full potential. We are proud of and very much welcome our diversity, while fully acknowledging that there is significant underrepresentation in a number of areas. On 10th June, more than 70 MPS faculty and staff came together in an online meeting to discuss both the challenges faced by BAME students and staff at Sussex, and actions that we could take in response. We together are committed to developing an active culture of anti-racism, including raising awareness amongst our faculty, staff and students, reviewing our policies and procedures, and doing all that we can to bring about positive change. We will not always get it right, and we invite honest debate; we accept that this may be uncomfortable at times, but is necessary for progress.
We also understand that racism, experienced first-hand or in the news, can cause trauma and distress. If anybody within MPS would like to discuss these issues, we encourage you to contact our inclusivity committee or the Director of Student Experience.”
I felt like saying, “Hey man, you’ve changed. You used to be all about the physics”. I wouldn’t mind but, as I remember it, even back in the 70s I was the only postgrad in that department that had English as the first language, and no English was spoken in the common room. Inclusivity was never a problem at that university, unless you were a country yokel from the North of England 🙂
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@ Alan, I can’t underestimate the young folk, nor their teachers, stupid teaching resources or not. I do not view teachers as mere vending machines dispensing whatever pearls of knowledge they are given by Cool Australia (or its UK equivalent).
I took my O levels in the mid 80s, and despite its temporal remove, there were curricula by that date (not that we were given them; more weight was supposedly given to learning the subject rather than learning to pass the test). We had a physics teacher who generally wasted half the lesson talking about his time in the RAF. Naturally, the students devoted a lot of time trying to get him to talk about this rather than F=ma.
In chemistry, I had heard that metal pencil sharpeners were actually made of magnesium, & managed to persuade the teacher to test my theory by setting fire to mine (after a minute in the Bunsen, it went up like a supernova). (I was down one sharpener, but it was worth it.)
In biology, when I got a B in the O level, my teacher threw a stool at me (“B! Bs don’t count boy!”)
The point I am groping for with this trip down memory lane is that teachers, like their students, are humans, with all the individuality that implies. I cannot accept that they are mere vending machines. And I’m sure you would have reacted appropriately had “PC” teaching materials been foisted on you. So will others.
Jit I think you are very optimistic if you believe there will be any opposition in the teaching profession to climate crisis content. Even when I included factual material in my single climate change lecture at UEA there were some students who objected and complained about lack of consistency to CRU staff. It is true that many other students thanked me but I can’t see any younger staff trying to give any balance (not is it likely they would be hired). In the same way most school teachers will merely spout what is acceptable to them, the authorities and most of their pupils. As Mark wrote “The brainwashing is almost complete.“