John Shade is a retired industrial statistician who runs the blog ‘Climate Lessons‘ to share his concerns about materials and campaigns aimed at children about the climate. He was co-author of the report ‘Climate Control: Brainwashing in schools’ which we covered on this site and requested this opportunity to share more fully his concerns…
Is the teaching of basic skills and basic knowledge not hard enough without adding the complication of deliberate political manipulation into the mix? Are teachers to be the willing servants of whichever government or ideological position happens to be currently fashionable or empowered? Are they also to willingly intervene between parents and their children in ways which seem intended to weaken the special bonds within a family?
I am particularly concerned with climate change and the associated wish of some powerful groups, not least in international agencies and NGOs, to make use of children as political tools with which to promote fundamental views about life, and even lifestyle and political choices, on to their parents. There are materials out there aimed at scaring children about their future, and surveys show that many are in fact living with a fear that they may not survive thanks to environmental catastrophes heading their way. There are materials aimed at distancing children from their own parents by persuading them, the children, that their parents are part of ‘the problem’ and need to be changed.
This combination of fear about the future and separation from previous sources of trust and guidance, are basic elements of brainwashing as described by Sowell (1993) in his book ‘Inside American Education’ where he provides several examples of such ‘stripping away of defences’ in schools in a range of programmes.
Andrew Montford and I have written a report entitled ‘Climate Control: Brainwashing in schools’ (GWPF, 2014) in which we focus on eco-alarms in general, and climate-related ones in particular. This was reported on here on the Schools Improvement Net (2014), where it attracted a few generally disparaging comments. None addressed our concerns that there may be widespread targeting of children in our schools with what amounts to eco-propaganda or, at the very least, inadequate treatment of important topics. But why should teachers be engaged at all with such campaigning in their classrooms and in extra-curricular events for their pupils? By all means, let them campaign with other adults, and engage them in debate on controversial issues. But surely it should be beneath them to seek to take advantage of their position in the classroom to try to persuade their pupils of their views?
‘Save the World on Your Own Time’. This is the title of a book by Fish (2008), and, although the book is about tertiary education, the spirit of that title is relevant here. The blurb about it on Amazon notes ‘When teachers offer themselves as moralists, political activists, or agents of social change rather than as credentialed experts in a particular subject and the methods used to analyze it, they abdicate their true purpose.’
An article in the Times Higher Education Supplement (THS, 2008) describes more of the content, e.g. ‘Many of the chapters sound like bluff common sense – “Do your job“, “Don’t try to do someone else’s job“, “Don’t let anyone else do your job” – ‘ and ‘In terms of what goes on in the classroom, Fish argues, “The line of virtue is very clear: are you asking academic questions or are you trying to nudge your students in some ideological partisan direction? ..’
Back in 2007, the then Labour government chose to distribute an emotive and politically-loaded DVD about climate to all schools in England & Wales. It was called ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, and was full of self-serving propaganda presented by a politician apparently intent on being seen as a saviour of the planet. In my view this was an astonishing and disgraceful action by the government. How dare they try to manipulate the young in such a fashion! Sadly it was part of a broader effort by them to use schools, and thus teachers, as agents for the promotion of far-reaching societal and personal changes linked to climate scares and the often associated topic of ‘sustainable development’. Far from being agreed, or even well-defined, these are controversial areas today, as indeed they were back in 2007.
So, gentle readers of this blog, do you think eco-activism should be given a free rein within schools? Do you think you should participate in raising fears, followed by giving detailed guidance on how your pupils should live, as well as on what they should think? Do you think it is part of your job to burden your pupils with ‘saving the planet’ and putting pressure on their parents?
GWPF (2014) http://www.thegwpf.org/
John Shade is a retired industrial statistician, who has previously worked as a professional meteorologist for four years, and before that as a schoolteacher for a year. He runs the blog ‘Climate Lessons’ to share his concerns about materials and campaigns aimed at children about climate (http://climatelessons.
Please let us know what you make of John’s post and feel free to ask him questions in the comments below…