Friday, February 02, 2007

We don't need no thought control

Alan Johnson is proposing changes to geography teaching in schools so that children can learn more about climate change:

If we can instil in the next generation an understanding of how our actions can mitigate or cause global warming then we lock in a culture change that could, quite literally, save the world.

I think this is a little over-stated, but probably fair enough, as the environment is an important issue and kids, generally speaking, are interested in it.

I'm not sure, though, that all his proposals are about increasing young people's knowledge, rather they seem to be a thinly disguised attack on global capitalism:

Importing food from the other side of the world and unnecessary airplane travel have become significant sources of CO2 pollution and children should be aware of these consequences.

Similarly, the importance of reducing fossil fuels and the effects of shifting clothes manufacturing to developing economies are all issues worth of study and debate in our classrooms.

I hope there will be plenty of emphasis on the fact that air travel makes up only a very small part of global emissions, and that deforestation in the Amazon and elsewhere (long a staple of the geography curriculum), and the construction of new power stations throughout the developing world are still much greater contibutors to the carbon mix.

(Just as an aside, does "airplane travel" stick in anyone else's craw? Surely "aeroplane travel" or "air travel" is the correct British English term?)

I also hope the stuff about shifting clothes manufacturing is not just a "globalisation bad, localism good" argument, because the reality is somewhat more complicated than that. If developing countries can sustain a successful textile industry, they become richer, helping lift their populations out of poverty. Money that countries like Bangladesh or Indonesia can earn from exports is massively important to their economies and buying goods from such places is not always a negative thing for us in the West to do.

The reason I'm a little cynical about AJ's ideas is this paragraph:

Children have a dual role as consumers and influences. Educating them about the impact of getting an extra pair of trainers for fashion's sake is as important as the pressure they put on their parents not to buy a gas-guzzling family car.

When the Education Secretary describes children as "consumers and influencers", I'm a little worried. Our priority should be educating them to read, write and add up (which many of our schools are failing to do adequately) and then equip them with the tools to analyse evidence and make sensible decisions for themselves as they go through life.

The last sentence, about gas-guzzlers, has me thinking about the real agenda here: the Government wants our kids to do what the congestion charge and road-pricing can't, namely get SUVs off the streets. Or am I reading too much into this?


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Rebirth 2.0 said...

Chris, I think you may have been spammed up there.

Good post - Perhaps you should consider changing the paper that you read. The Economist had a very good section on globalisation and the UK this week (although it didn't say anything that Friedman hadn't already pointed out, or Amartya Sen for that matter) - might be worth checking out.

And yes, airplane is an Americanism...
(PS - is there a way for Blogger to tell me if you reply to this comment?)

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