Michael Gove is concerned about teachers promoting science in schools. Yes, really

Michael Gove is concerned about teachers promoting science in schools. Yes, really.

The Daily Mail reports today that education secretary Michael Gove has expressed “concern” about a study which accuses “activist” teaching staff of trying to turn pupils into “foot soldiers of the green movement”.

According to the study carried out by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a climate change denying think-tank set up by former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson, “eco-activists” in the education system are urging children to use “pester power” to force parents to adopt green lifestyle choices.

“We find instances of eco-activism being given a free rein within schools and at the events schools encourage their pupils to attend,” the report claims.

Gove “read the report with concern”, according to a spokesperson for the education secretary.

Schools should not teach that a particular political or ideological point of view is right – indeed it is against the law for them to do so,” the spokesperson added.

Unlike most of the content found in the Daily Mail, it’s actually worth taking a closer look at this piece, if for no other reason than to understand just how loopy some on the right have become over the issue of man made climate change.

What exactly is it that the GWPF- and by extension Micheal Gove – are objecting to here?

According to the GWPF, telling kids to “avoid polluting the world”, “recycle” and “reduce their carbon footprint” is “brainwashing” carried out with the express intention of turning children into “foot soldiers of the green movement”.

But hang on a minute. What exactly is objectionable about teaching children to safeguard the environment? If you can avoid doing so, don’t go around polluting the world – it’s hardly revolutionary advice.

And perhaps, when the GWPF talk about “brainwashing”, they ought to consider who is attempting to brainwash who here.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is “extremely likely” that humans have been the principal cause of warming since the 1950s. An analysis of abstracts of 11,944 peer-reviewed scientific papers, published between 1991 and 2011 and written by 29,083 authors, found that 98.4 per cent of authors who took a position endorsed man-made climate change, with just 1.2 per cent rejecting it and 0.4 per cent uncertain.

There is an overwhelming consensus in support of the theory of anthropogenic global warming, in other words.

Unless Michael Gove is a believer in the foolish relativist notion that there is no such thing as objective truth, then he ought to be quite keen on children leaving school with at least a basic understanding of a phenomenon that 98.4 per cent of scientists are convinced is occurring. Instead he appears to prefer the crackpot climate change denialism of the GWPF, an organisation stuffed with what are far too politely referred to as “sceptics”.

Schools should “not teach that a particular political or ideological point of view is right,” Gove says.

Well no. Schools should follow the evidence and act accordingly. Some points of view are backed by an overwhelming amount of empirical evidence and are therefore “right”. Others aren’t. This is why schools teach kids evolution rather than creationism. It’s why they teach astronomy rather than astrology. And it’s why they encourage children to take care of the environment and to think a little about man-made climate change.

It isn’t a “point of view”. It’s the scientific consensus.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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33 Responses to “Michael Gove is concerned about teachers promoting science in schools. Yes, really”

  1. swatnan

    I was afraid of this Gove’s Thought Police being sent to every school in the land apart from Eton and Harrow.
    And a Clause 29, banning the teaching of Climate Change in schools, is on the way.

  2. Adam Dyster

    As read here, the Department’s comments can however also be seen as a rebuttal of GWPF’s report..

  3. janlog

    So encouraging kids to be more environmentally responsible is wrong-headed now? Climate change is irrelevant – we have but one planet and we’re messing it up at a terrific rate. The schools are merely doing what needs to be done to get the next generations a bit more tuned into conserving finite resources. Politics should not even be an issue – unless Gove considers unchecked environmental damage a worthwhile goal for our kids.

  4. Lee Hyde

    ““eco-activists” in the education system are urging children to use
    “pester power” to force parents to adopt green lifestyle choices.”

    How terrible, educated pupils urging their parents to use less energy and recycle more. Even a hardened denialist couldn’t rationally object to that surely (unless they own shares in BP, Shell, et al.). Efficiency is good no? or does that only apply to market efficiencies like shedding jobs, suppressing wages erc?

  5. Jonathan Cook

    As ever, Left Foot Forwards authors manage to demonstrate they don’t understand climate science in the slightest, nor the climate debate. Can anybody be bothered to correct the errors that this post is riddled with?

  6. David Harrison

    Can you point out 1 error? Are you a scientist? Were any scientific statements or observations made?

    Probably not or you would have done so already. Statistically unlikely (given that only slightly more than 1% of scientisits agree with your opinion). Only one and it was the science of Mathematics being used to statistically prove (with less than a 2% margin of error) that climate change is an issue.

  7. Jonathan Cook

    For what it is worth, I did a degree in Chemical Engineering. This post demonstrates 100% ignorance of the “scientific method” – which is a fair degree of certainty.

  8. David Harrison

    And usually 98% certain is enough to say definate. But not in this case?

    Well that was unlikely, you were in the 1.2%.

  9. David Harrison

    Also, because this article does not do any science (other than the previously mentioned bit of maths) why would it need to ue the scientific method?

  10. Jonathan Cook

    Here is a quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica to help you:

    “The Nazis enlisted other physicists, including Nobel laureates Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark, to denounce Einstein. One Hundred Authors Against Einstein was published in 1931. When asked to comment on this denunciation of relativity by so many scientists, Einstein replied that to defeat relativity one did not need the word of 100 scientists, just one fact.”


  11. David Harrison

    You hilarious person.

    Only 5 posts before you play the Nazi card, that has to be a new internet record. I see your Nazi and here is my counter Nazi: ‘The protocols of the Elders of Zion’. Prior to Hitlers big political debut most of Europe was worried about the Jews because of a secret communique intercepted by what would later become the KGB. It detailed how the Jews had been plotting to set the countries of the world against each other so they could rule supreme.

    When it came to light that this was nonsense and that the entire script had been lifted almost word for word from a scathing satirical fiction about Napoleon and written almost a century earlier, almost everyone accepted it was a forgery. Everyone except antisemites like Hitler who concoted ridiculous excuses (such as time travel) so he could hang onto his truth whilst flying in the face of the evidence.

    The fact is that clinate change is a thing. We have proof that many of the by products of modern society damage our delicate ecology.

    Goodbye you silly billy.

  12. Jonathan Cook


  13. Stephen Welch

    Astonishing that so many school kids apparently have no idea of the basics about the environment, take this example from a small Scottish authority: “Currently the council spends £380,000 every year cleaning up litter from
    streets around high schools, most of which is on streets between
    schools and town centres.”* In GWPF terms to advise them to do otherwise is brainwashing?! These guys need their heads looked at…

    * http://www.nhsfife.org/news/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.display&objectid=86A49A28-E5EB-EEAC-B052ABBF55FC07F1

  14. Timo

    Did you actually read the report? Your very first question was clearly meant to divert attention from the substantive issues raised and discuss something else. “What exactly is objectionable about teaching children to safeguard the environment?” Nothing really, because that is not what the report was about. Then you foolishly embellish to let’s teach astrology instead of astronomy. Every single issue raised you side step: Should we teach our children to be activists and disrespect parents and authority? Giving children free rain to ‘book’/ticket people for driving a car before they even understand the broad picture of energy and simple re-enforce that almost everything in their life bad/wrong or will lead to dire consequences… etc…

    It is a moral issue of what we are thematically teaching.

    So Mr. Gove, what transportation do you use? Have you personally checked you retirement and divested so as not to be the hypocrite that you are setting yourself up to be? Should we have your kids come home with a ALF or SHAC membership already in place?

  15. patrick edwards

    You would have thought that Nigel and his friends as cheerleaders in chief for the concept of possessive individualism, might well understand that it makes complete sense for children to do everything they can to avert the slag heap of a world they will inherit if their elders and betters continue to discount the future by not acting to tackle climate change today. This kind of selfish individualism is the only manifestation of it that I feel happy to give my wholehearted support to!

  16. patrick edwards

    I don”t think anybody on this site can profess to understand climate science. But like other policy areas in modern societies where the division of labour has become incredibly complex, public policy decisions have to mediate between an incredibly knowledgeable expert opinion and a massively ignorant public one – and I mean the latter term in the nicest possible way and would include myself among this group!

    How, I suppose the question is, how can we deal with collective action problems – that politics is meant to be the chief institution with the legitimacy to resolve- when the information and the evidence are not readily understood by citizens nor can be?

  17. ClimateLearner

    Not so much Left Foot Forward as Left Foot In It. The article is a dismal display of boorishness based on a sullen disregard of the actual content of the report.

  18. Frankie D.

    “Should we teach our children to be activists and disrespect parents and authority?”

    If the parents and authority are wrong, then yes. Why wouldn’t you teach children to stand up for what’s right?

  19. M2

    The title is rather misleading. Science and policies are quite different things

  20. Sun

    This is the Left Foot Forward. What do you expect. The Left believes it “owns” science.

  21. Sun

    I do believe in climate change (unlike the Right).

    However your headline is obviously misleading to what he actually said.

    Nice try. Promoting science and promoting the green movement are two different. They are interconnected.

  22. Sun

    I also love you you don’t think academia isn’t institutionally Liberal.

  23. Nofun

    Do you know less than 7% scientists outside of engineers vote GOP. It only appears as if the left own science because righty attacks it so often.

  24. Sun

    I love how you think (most) children have the capacity to make such decisions. Parents exist for a reason. Children are to be taught for when they’re ready, to make decision. Tell me does you children spark revolution in your household and demand change determine what can and cannot be done?

    No wonder why children are spoiled and entitled. I can think of you Frankie whenever I see a child who think he or she knows better than an adult.

    “Children are to be seen, not heard.”

  25. Sun

    Yes the Right (religious Right more like) does attack science.

    Ironically, the Left philosophically has more issue with science than the right does. The Left likes to hold science to mock some creationist to feel superior, etc. The Right has issue on a superficial level. But when it comes to tribalism and behavior the Right has better selection practices than the Left.

  26. Joe Clarke

    Mr Cook, out of genuine interest can you point out some of the errors in this post, please? I would like to know what they are.

  27. NeilM639

    Gove is a poisonous little twerp.

  28. Anthony Simpson

    Global Warming Policy Foundation is not a think-tank. They do not think.

  29. Ann

    No hope for me then as a climate change scientist considering science teaching as a career! Haha

  30. fourthletter

    So where is your critique of the article filled with scientific evidence?? We are still waiting….

  31. fourthletter

    ~Well the left tend to not ignore it in the pursuit of profit….

  32. Uwe Guevara

    Just ignore this Idiot!

  33. Reino Unido se revela: El que niega el cambio climático hace grandes donaciones a Boris Johnson y Jeremy Hunt.

    […] Gove, otro prominente candidato al liderazgo de Tory, ha elogiado los informes publicados por la Fundación Políticas sobre el  Calentamiento Global. Como secretario de educación, un portavoz de Gove desestimó la ciencia del clima como «un punto […]

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