John Shade: Teachers Should Not Use Classroom For Climate Campaign

  • Date: 20/05/14
  • John Shade, Schools Improvement Net

I am particularly concerned with climate change and the associated wish of some powerful groups 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.

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? ..’

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