AIT through students’ eyes

October 20, 2007 at 12:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I concur with J.S. McIntyre’s comments.

As it happens, I have three children aged 9, 11 and 13 who have attended schools in the U.S. and the U.K. and I have taught children in the elementary and middle school grades. My kids and many of their friends are aware of climate change, and most know it is important, but are not having sleepless nights over it. The younger kids accept climate change the same way they accept gravity. It just is. The older ones question whether lifestyle changes are really necessary. My own kids know, and many other students are reassured to hear, how many adults are taking significant steps to combat climate change.

It turns my stomach when I hear about adults who visit classrooms to talk about global warming and end up telling children they are lucky because their generation can be the true planetary heroes. (Ugh and aaargh!) There are actually children who now think we can recycle our way out of this problem, because adults have been dishonest or ignorant in their dismissive explanations of global warming that seek to minimise the real situation for fear of scaring kids.

My own two eldest kids watched AIT with me last year, and it raised questions in their minds that I have tried to answer since.

By coincidence, the day after the High Court Judgment was handed down, I watched AIT again in a classroom at my 13-year-old’s school with older pupils and staff. Afterwards I attended a session that was deliberately set up to host “an alternative view” for sixth formers, and this was followed by Q&A. As a result, I have at least a fresh perspective on this film and the way it is perceived by students in England in the particular age group for which the climate change pack has been prepared. By and large, I think perhaps student reactions tend to reflect those of their parents or key leaders in their peer groups. (This is an important point for boys when there is a leader studying Physics at A-level who waxes lyrical on the importance of Milankovitch cycles in an attempt to argue that anthropogenic influences on climate don’t matter.) High school students will challenge teachers on particular points. This is why the Guidance Notes to teaching staff in the climate change pack circulated to state secondary schools in England are crucial reading for any Geography or Science teacher, as well as those members of teaching staff in charge of Citizenship studies.

Certainly, I have watched AIT with students several times this year, and they do not find it alarmist. Yes, the truth is alarming, and is certainly inconvenient, but the film AIT itself is not half as bad as people are led to believe. (Some of the older girls, for example, were more likely to talk about Al Gore’s son surviving his accident than they were about climate change.)

To put this in another perspective, my children and their peer groups at church and at school, in California and England, have had direct and indirect contact over several years with children the same age as themselves in Malawi and Nigeria. In both examples of children linking up to help children in another part of the world, the American and British kids are well-off by many standards. By contrast most, if not all, of the African children have lost both parents to AIDS and live in utter poverty as orphans in a caring community. Yet, when you meet the Malawians and Nigerians, they are living bundles of energy and pure joy.

If anyone tells me that hiding the truth from children is the kindest act, I would argue quite vehemently against that. Children and adults have to learn to deal with the world as they find it, and as it presents itself to them: warts and all!

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