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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...Reading, Writing, and Global Warming for British Students (CNS NEWS, 02/09/07)
February 9, 2007

CNS NEWS

Reading, Writing, and Global Warming for British Students

Article Web link: http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewForeignBureaus.asp?Page=/ForeignBureaus/archive/200702/INT20070209d.html

February 09, 2007

London (CNSNews.com) - Students at state-funded schools in Britain will learn about global warming, the government announced this week -- and former Vice President Al Gore's provocative views on the issue will get maximum exposure.

As part of the new school curriculum for 11- to 14-year-olds, the government said students will be taught about how the earth's climate is changing and about the importance of "sustainable development."

(Other new subjects being introduced include Arabic and Mandarin, healthy cooking and the history of Britain's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.)

A government spokeswoman said Friday that all state schools and all faith-based school getting state funding -- most of them do -- are required to follow the curriculum. Private schools are "strongly encouraged" to do so.

A spokesman for the UK government's Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) told Cybercast News Service that under the new plan, teachers will not be given a set number of hours each week to teach about global warming.

The new curriculum is a guideline, which individual schools and teachers will use in the formation of their lesson plans, he said.

For example, a class might take a field trip to the hills of north Wales and study the evidence of previous ice ages to be found in the rocks there. From this, he said, students will learn firsthand about how the earth's temperature has changed through the ages.

Although many scientists still question the extent of the climate-change threat - and whether human activity plays a role in it -- the spokesman called it an "uncontentious issue" and said the "evidence was already in."

The National Union of Teachers warned this week that students might be overloaded from the new curriculum, but the QCA spokesman said he doubted there would be many complaints over the global warming classes.

"Not from parents," he said. "Not on an issue like this. The controversial issues in the English school system are sex, drugs, alcohol, and religion."

In addition to the new curriculum, the government also announced that it will send a copy of Gore's global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, to every high school in England.

The movie charges that the global environment has been drastically changed by the burning of fossil fuels and suggests in a variety of ways how viewers can change their behavior to save the planet.

Government ministers said the debate on global warming had been settled and that by watching Gore's documentary, young students will be inspired to live less environmentally damaging lives.

"Children are the key to changing society's long-term attitudes to the environment," Education Minister Alan Johnson said. "Not only are they passionate about saving the planet, but children also have a big influence over their own families' lifestyles and behavior."

The Gore documentary will form part of a year-long environmental program in state schools, although the QCA spokesman said it was not part of the new curriculum.

Politics questioned

Greenpeace and the British Green Party applauded the move but the conservative U.K. Independence Party charged that it violated education laws which prohibited the airing of partisan political views in schools.

"This is political propaganda at its worst," said deputy party leader David Campbell Bannerman. "The climate change argument is ongoing and for the government to sponsor one side of the debate is a disgrace."

In recent months, European critics of the film have charged that Gore exaggerates and distorts facts in his films to fit his argument.

For example, Danish writers such as Flemming Rose and Bjorn Lomborg -- the latter, the author of the Skeptical Environmentalist -- have attacked Gore for showing a sea-rise of 20 feet while the U.N.'s climate body has only postulated a rise of one foot over this century.

A spokesman for the government's environmental department brushed these concerns aside Thursday.

"We're not going to get into a discussion on the merits of the film," he said.

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