Another example of the mainstream media becoming interested in environmental / sustainability education comes from the Spectator website where an article by Joanna William asks: Who allowed Dale Vince’s climate curriculum to take over schools?
This is how it begins:
Recently, much light has been shone on the way LGBTQ+ campaign groups have been able to influence school sex and relationships classes. Lurid examples of highly sexualised and age-inappropriate content have shocked parents. Now, the Prime Minister has ordered a review of the curriculum, much to the disgust of teaching unions and campaigners.
But lessons in gender identity and sexuality are not the only way in which schools have become politicised. And LGBTQ+ activists are not the only ones looking to influence future generations by shaping what children are taught. Step forward Dale Vince.
Dubbed ‘Britain’s most successful hippy’, Vince founded the renewable energy company Ecotricity, currently estimated to be worth £100 million. He hit the headlines after donating over £1.5 million to the Labour party and offering to double public donations to Just Stop Oil. Good for him. Having made his money, Vince is, of course, free to spend it however he sees fit.
But Vince is now seeking new ways to bring his eco-message to the world. Top of his list is education; he is funding the development of an eco-curriculum to be implemented in 12,000 UK schools. Vince wants to see environmental considerations embedded into all aspects of school life with lessons ‘focusing on the energy we use, the way we travel, what we eat and the importance of making room for nature’. Last year, his ‘greening up the national curriculum’ project was trialled in 15 primary and 10 secondary schools. Currently, more than 100 schools are said to be ‘engaging’ with resources developed by Vince’s self-styled ‘Ministry of Eco Education’.
For once, I read all the comments below the line and if you wanted any confirmation that climate skepticism is alive and well, I recommend them to you.
The article itself contains a host of misconceptions alongside its many concerns. I thought of commenting, but decided to write this instead. Had I commented, I'd have said:
- It hasn't taken over schools; these are still run by teachers and governors.
- Vince, via the Ministry of Eco-education, is offering programmes of work and resources which schools can use to explore climate issues with their students.
- Schools don't have to use these.
- If they do, they can adapt and add to them as they see fit which is something teachers have done for generations.
- Vince is doing nothing more than thousands of outfits have done before; from the mighty WWF and RSPB, across to local and community activists. This is permissible and even encouraged.
- The Ministry of Eco-education material is likely to contain material of variable quality as most such resources do.
- The DfE has no control or influence over the resources that schools use; and rightly so.
- The national curriculum references climate (etc) issues from key stage 1 to GCSE and so it's likely that schools are finding the Ministry of Eco-education materials helpful in meeting their obligations to cover these issues.
- The national curriculum references to climate issues is not extensive or deep, and it could be that schools are finding the Ministry of Eco-education materials helpful in extending their exploration of the issues, if that's what they want to do.
- Resources and schemes of work are not the same as the curriculum.
The article criticises what it sees as the risk of indoctrination. For example:
“But what’s important is knowing when science and facts stop and speculation and propaganda starts. Although science can tell us how and, with less certainty, why the climate is changing, it cannot tell us how we should respond to these changes. Decisions about whether to prevent climate change or ameliorate its impact, whether to speed up development through, for example, nuclear power, or to opt for de-growth, are political and moral, not scientific. If Vince’s green curriculum teaches such political choices as facts, it would be indoctrination, not education.”
The key word here would seem to be “if”.
What’s significant here, perhaps, is not the substance of the crIticisms, but the fact that they are being made.