When I was nine, the threat of nuclear war loomed large. I understood that Ronald Reagan was the president of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev the leader of the Soviet Union. I knew about the nuclear arms race, specifically the Star Wars program and MX Missile, and the movement for nuclear disarmament.
I was a tad precocious but no prodigy, and I remember talking about the nuclear threat with other children.
So Im not remotely surprised that nine-year-olds today are writing about climate change and even the Paris agreement in their school work.
Of course, they are – climate change is an existential threat for Generation Z. Did you think they wouldnt notice?
In a recent incident that made the news, the NSW Department of Education ordered Ramsgate Public School to remove two letters from students published in an online newsletter.
The children had written letters about climate change, notionally to Prime Minister Scott Morrison though the letters werent sent, as part of an exercise in persuasive writing.
A department spokesman told The Sun-Herald the letters were written after a geography lesson about the Great Barrier Reef. The spokesman said there was no problem with the lesson or the letters themselves but because they were addressed to the Prime Minister and were critical of government policy, the publication of the letters breached the Controversial Issues in Schools policy.
The incident was reported in The Daily Telegraph, which quoted two right-wing think tanks and a conservative academic in a story about how teachers are ostensibly subjecting children to a political agenda in the classroom and “brainwashing young, immature and vulnerable children with their politically correct ideology”.
The same rhetoric was used to belittle the children and teenagers in the school student strike for climate – even the 17-year-olds who were nearly of voting age were dismissed as “pawns”.
Last week, Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, the girl who started the worldwide school strike movement, addressed the British Parliament. Predictably, people who don't want to hear her message choose to attack her instead – they mock her appearance and stern manner, her Asperger's, claim she is paid to protest, and dismiss her on the basis that she has only just turned 16.
If you would prefer to listen to an adult who has studied the issue then by all means do so – they will tell you the same as Thunberg. The difference is that Thunberg's youth gives her message about the future a certain moral clout.
Climate change is a tough issue for teachers and not just because they are hamstrung by policy.
A relative who teaches primary school recently confided in me about the emotional cost of teaching Gen Z, when he is increasingly pessimistic about their future given the devastation of our natural world.
Lets not pretend that children and teenagers cant understand whats going on. Young people are young people and they are smarter than we give them credit for.
Dont take my word for it. Heres Professor Tonia Gray, a specialist in pedagogy and learning at the University of Western Sydney: “We underestimate the capabilities and the skills of the modern child. Dont sell them short and dont dumb it down.”
Associate Professor Penny Van Bergen, an education expert at Macquarie University, says a child aged nine is old enough to learn complex concepts such as climate change and even the principles of the Paris agreement.
UNICEF recently released its 2019 Young Ambassador Report based on consultations with 1517 Australian children and teenagers and an additional survey of 1007 young people aged 14 to 17. The report found young Australians are “extremely worried about what they see as the ongoing failures of governments, businesses and communities to act as effective stewards for a clean and livable environment”.
Students as young as Year 5 start to clearly express these opinions. Even preschoolers brought up the fact that litter could harm wildlife.
Among the surveyed teenagers, the vast majority (86 per cent) view climateRead More – Source