Right now, in classrooms around the country, students are being taught that Climate Change equals catastrophe and that the only way to stop it from happening is through Thunberg-esque, sandals-on-the-ground activism.
Version 9.0 of the National Curriculum, approved by state and federal Education Ministers earlier this year, explicitly encourages students to assume the role of being an activist on Climate Change.
Year 10 Science students are asked to design a public performance about Climate Change, ‘to encourage people to take specific action’, while Year 9 Civics and Citizenship students are tasked with planning ‘a citizenship campaign on an issue related to sustainability or Climate Change’.
Plainly, boys and girls aren’t merely taught to grasp a concept, but to preach a progressive perspective.
It’s even worse here in New South Wales, where the Secretary of the Department of Education, Georgina Harrisson, has tweeted in praise of the ‘incredible work happening in our schools to prepare the next generation of Climate Change leaders’.
On its website, the New South Wales Department of Education makes available a suite of so-called ‘digital learning tools’. One of them is the Minecraft Education Edition, which provides games and interactive modules for students across a slew of subjects.
Here, you can find the Climate Futures module, which offers teachers a Climate Change Wellbeing Guide to help students ‘navigate the delivery of Climate Change scientific content’. The Guide suggests students may respond to such content by displaying ‘a whole host of difficult emotions, including fear, helplessness, frustration, anger, guilt, grief and confusion’. It recommends teachers ‘acknowledge and discuss avoidance and the bystander effect, as they relate to Climate Change’ and encourages students to ‘take action together with others’.
Then, there’s the Climate Warriors game, which was launched by NRMA Insurance last year. It asks students as young as seven to fill in the blanks of this statement: ‘Another (blank) degree of warming is predicted to (blank) bushfire risk by (blank) across Australia compared to today.’
Last but not least, over on the taxpayer-funded Adapt New South Wales website, teachers are offered links to online materials, including Monash University’s Climate Classroom. Here, you can find lesson plans, including ‘Cranky Uncle’ which teaches Year 9 English students how to spot ‘climate misinformation […] used by a range of actors to confuse the public in order to stymie effective action on Climate Change’.
‘Cranky Uncle’ also introduces students to the delightfully named FLICC Framework, which refers to Fake Experts, Logical Fallacies, Impossible Expectations, Conspiracy Theories, and Cherry Picking. Of course, in the eyes of FLICC, there’s no room for dissent; only the most radical of climate warriors can be correct.
With such materials being pushed in our schools, it is little wonder the national debate about Climate Change is dominated by melodramatic, unscientific language.
For the same reason, it is entirely unsurprising that a recent University of Bath poll found three in four Young Australians are ‘frightened’ about the future, while around half think Climate Change could threaten family security. Breathless declarations of climate emergency aren’t doing anything to stem the tides or stop the fires, they’re just needlessly scaring children.
No doubt, parents across New South Wales will be wondering whether Climate Futures, Climate Warriors, and Cranky Uncle is just the tip of the iceberg of the ‘incredible work’ being put in to train a generation of Climate Change leaders.
Let’s leave activism to the politicians and take climate politics out of the classroom.
Charlie Chadwick is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs
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