Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

A great dilemma as Australian fireworks lead the way

📥  Comment

The Sydney New Year Celebrations were as colourful (and over-the-top fabulous) as ever this (ie, last) year, and their bridge always seems to outdo our wheel as a framing for activity.  If you missed them, you can have a look here.  And this year, despite using 5000 kg of fireworks, they were even carbon neutral, it seems.  I found this claim rather unlikely, but it seems to be the case, at least in the sense that buying carbon credits allows you to carry on doing what you like doing – you just pay a bit more for it.   This must be a great dilemma for local environmental educators to use, whether they like fireworks or not.


If pester power is good enough for McDonald's, then it's ...

📥  Comment

I overheard a conversation a while back about the use of young people to persuade their parents through targeted pester power to change their bad social-living habits.  It struck me as odd to invoke McDonald's values to justify this rather shameless exploitation of children, especially when such values are so widely deprecated in the education world in other contexts.  But then, ends justifying means is hardly a new phenomenon.  I was reminded of all this when reading Frank Furedi's recent piece, 'Turning children into Orwellian eco-spies' in Spiked.  Although slightly dated in some of the examples, the article raises issues that ought to concern anyone who puts education ahead of social engineering when thinnking about the purpose of schools.  Furedi's final paragraph is:

In previous times, it was only totalitarian societies that mobilised children to police their parents’ behaviour. It was Orwellian, Big Brother-style states that tried to harness youngsters’ simplistic views of good and evil to reshape the outlook of adults. But who needs Big Brother when the former prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair, can openly assert that ‘on climate change, it is parents who should listen to their children’? It appears that preying on children’s fears and exploiting their anxiety is now considered to be a form of enlightened education. Yet the future of our children demands that we provide them with existential and moral security. Instead of feeding them on a steady diet of scaremongering, we need to inspire them about our potential to improve the future of our world.



It not only seems ok to eat Kenyan green beans, it seems right

📥  New Publications

Welcome news from Oxfam, whose new publication, Fair Miles: recharting the food miles map, explores the dilemma of whether it is ethically sound to eat fresh food shipped (air-freighted, more like) in from distant places.  Many a glass of new world chardonnay has been enjoyed whist debating such issues, of course.  Oxfam note:

This pocketbook delves into the realities of the produce trade between Africa and the UK, examining both sides of the equation in search of a diet that is ethically, as well as nutritionally, balanced.

This is a booklet for those who want to think through the issues for themselves, but who like the idea of an ethical / nutritional balance to what they eat, and the data provided here (although rather jumbled in my view) will help greatly, even though it inevitably remains a complex area.  The strong contribution of UK consumers to developing world economies through trade is laid bare, and ought to act as a counter weight to all those siren voices whose idea of the future is to go back to a time (just when was this?) when all food was grown locally.  A valuable ESD resource for teachers.


Children's (and other) Statements on Climate Change

📥  New Publications

On 26 November, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families received the Children's Statement on Climate Change from children at St Luke's primary school in Newham and promised to send it to UK delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.  The Statement is available to download as a PDF and is certainly worth a read if only to glimpse some of the thoughts of some of our children (it's hard to know anything about representativeness, of course).

Commendably, little attempt seems to have been made to eliminate muddled conceptual thinking:

If we don’t reduce global warming we’ll see more floods, droughts, food shortages, and endangered animals because the hole in the ozone layer will get even bigger.

Concern about the extinction of polar bears continues (I hear this wherever I go and have to admire the animals' PR machine):

The ice caps melting and polar bears and penguins becoming extinct from it.

Meanwhile, Thomas says:

I am most worried about the severe effects of climate change, like the increase in flooding in the UK and the very hot summers which we would get; this would cause crops to fail.  The animals would not be able to adapt quickly enough to the rapid change ... so they would die.

I wonder whether Thomas would be just as worried were the summers to be cold and the winters dry.  I suppose he would be as he'd likely be told that this, also, was evidence of climate change – as it may well be (or not) – how can he know?

I read the children's piece at the same time as the article in this week's THE: Beyond Debate?  by Martin Cohen.  I think that this is something which the children's teachers might usefully read – as well as some of the comment that goes alongside it on the THE's website – if only to help them see that this debate is not settled, and therefore help them to be as open and honest as possible with the young people whom they teach.


The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy

📥  New Publications

A review in THE this week of the Handbook of Sustainability Literacy –  the sort of review that authors might have thought of penning themselves had they been optimistic enough about how their achievements might be received (I had one of those reviews once I seem to remember).  In focusing on the notion of ecological intelligence, the review raised a question in my mind that my own reading of the book hadn't raised.  It's this: how does ecological intelligence relate to sustainability literacy?  Is ecological intelligence something that you can acquire when you have sustainability literacy?  Or is it the other way round: do you need ecological intelligence in order to develop sustainability literacy?  Or are they much the same thing (or is one part of the other, perhaps)?  Maybe they co-evolve as you work through issues; maybe there's no necessary link.  Answers on a postcard to the usual address ...


And so to Norway and the kulturlandskap

📥  Talks and Presentations

To Norway to give a talk on reorienting teacher education to address sustainability at a conference of teachers and teacher educators.  A chance to think about the Unesco project that we were once part of, and to reflect on 30+ years of our PGCE environmental science programme.  No one (except me) mentioned that nature might be thought of as the home of culture, but there was much talk of the, notionally translatable, but hard to understand, idea of the 'Kulturlandskap' which is just as tricky as Bildung to get a grip on (try a google search).  The highlight for me was listening to the venerable Øystein Dahle, once of the Worldwatch Institute, who has neatly positioned himself as a one man nuscience to those in thrall to the status quo and who think that the future is the way forward.  His rediscovery of the OHP was his metaphor for a simpler life.  An example of his writing is here.


What the World needs now is ... yet another Declaration

📥  Comment

I know that what the world really needs is "love, sweet love", whether sung by Dionne Warwick or others, but what we've finished up is the Lucerne Declaration.  As IRGEE 18.4 reports, this is actually the Lucerne Declaration on Geographical Education for Sustainable Development [ LDGESD ].   As the declaration notes:

"The International Geographical Union Commission on Geographical Education proclaims this Declaration and recommends the principles presented in this document as a basis for a sound Geographical Education for sustainable development to all geographers and governments in the world."

I suppose what I really want to know is why this isn't just a basis for a sound, mainstream geographical education that everybody does [full stop]  If geographical education isn'tnow focused on sustainability, does it really deserve the name?

Nick Jones reminds me that John Westaway (QCA Geography officer) said in about 1998 that Sustainable Development would likely be the "saviour" of Geography. But Ofsted's gloomy 2008 report on Geography in schools seems to indicate the opposite:

"At a time when geographical issues such as floods, rising sea levels,
conflict resolution, famines and trade disputes constantly make the
headlines, there is some evidence that the provision of geography is

10 years on, and it's citizenship which seems to be some bookies new favourite in the Saviour Stakes.

Doorways, what Doorways? Oh, and what's ESD?

📥  Comment

I recently spent a very stimulating few hours with primary school headteachers from a London Borough – talking with them about sustainable schools during a couple of days devoted to this theme.   Although there were a few Heads from the Borough not there, it was a pretty good turn out.

Only 25% of those there said that they'd heard of the sustainable school doorways, and none had come across the idea of ESD – or the Unesco Decade.   What bliss, part of me thought.  I do need to say, however, that some of the work being done by those who were aware of the idea of sustainable schools was commendable.


A Pedagogy for ESD?

📥  News and Updates

In a recent mailing, SEEd has said that it "is wanting to explore what it can contribute to the question about pedagogy and ESD", and it asks "some very basic questions:

  • What can we say about pedagogy and ESD/global learning?
  • What theories and for what purpose have different types of pedagogy been advised or tested?
  • What types of pedagogy are in practice and with/by whom?
  • What would be useful to explore to further this area of work and enable a better narrative to influence further change/take up of ESD/global learning?"
My initial response has been to suggest starting with the twin propositions that
  • “there are no pedagogies specific to ESD”     and
  • “all pedagogies can be thought of as appropriate to ESD”
testing these ideas out.  This is because I tend to think about pedagogy only when I have taken audience, objectives and context into account.  What do you do?