What are we teaching our children?

Letter to the Irish Times Editor

Sir

Climate change – what are we teaching our children? I have 5 children from junior infants through to third year in college. All of them have encountered climate change throughout the course of their formal education. It is very much part of the syllabus from primary school science to junior certificate social education, on to third level geography and many other lessons in between.

There are pre-school education resources based on a character called  “Guzzler” provided by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI. Taken from the website “Guzzler is a friendly monster who lives in Aoife’s wardrobe. Children will love learning about energy with this big style book full of bright and colourful illustrations. Also available in Irish.”. Naturally.

Primary school children can be introduced to climate change and energy efficiency from junior infants. As well as the Green Schools programme there are plenty more “Guzzler” and SEAI resources. If you search for climate change on the SEAI website 8 of the first 10 items are school resources.

Junior certificate children do Civic Social and Political Education, CSPE, which teaches them about climate change and earth stewardship. If you search online for CSPE climate change the first sentence you get is from a teaching resource website http://www.scoilnet.ie stating that “Climate change represents one of the greatest environmental, social, and economic problems facing the planet”. Just read that again – as a child would. “Climate change represents one of the greatest environmental, social, and economic problems facing the planet”

They are taught that burning fossil fuel is damaging the planets atmosphere. That we need to reduce green house gases. That the climate changes naturally but the current changes are not normal. That the power they use every day is causing a problem – “one of the greatest environmental, social, and economic problems facing the planet”. That our actions are making our planet uninhabitable. There is endless educational information available at their finger tips.

What are they learning from all of this? Humans have a massive impact on the ecosystem that supports it. How we should care for it. That we need to stop using carbon to give our atmosphere a chance to get well. That the actions of the past century have caused this accelerated climate change. That we have caused it.

What are they really learning? That even though we know it is wrong to damage the atmosphere we continue to do it. They are learning that we are incapable of taking responsibility for our actions. They are learning that we are passing the buck – big time. When they read your paper they see adults arguing over “one of the greatest environmental, social, and economic problems facing the planet”. Instead of addressing it we are happy to wait for the 6 degree increase and the end of human life, if not all life, on earth.

Are we teaching them competence? Responsibility? Empathy? Consideration? I think not.

The debate is well over but ignorance, politicians and vested interests keep it alive – aided by the media. Please honour your role and aim to do as your paper aspires “journalism of the highest standard; reports that are accurate, and comprehensive; and analysis that is informed, fair and based on facts.” If you don’t have the time to go back to school then please consult a climate scientist about climate matters. Or alternatively a 6th year geography student.

SEAI Pre-school resources http://www.seai.ie/Schools/Early-Years/

School support for CSPE http://www.scoilnet.ie/Climate_Change_Themepage_CSPE.shtm

The Irish Times quality aspiration http://www.irishtimes.com/about-us/the-irish-times-trust#editor

Theresa O’Donohoe 23rd April 2014


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