Greta Thunberg: what we can learn from her example

Roger Titcombe's picture

The following are my personal views arising from Greta’s words.

On climate change

Like Greta, I am with David Attenborough and the climate scientists. I actually believe Greta understates the seriousness of the crisis. It seems unlikely that the increase in mean global temperature will be kept below 1.5 deg C. Here I agree with the arguments of George Monbiot in this Guardian article.

He identifies the  crux of the problem as being embedded in the nature of capitalism.

Capitalism’s failures arise from two of its defining elements. The first is perpetual growth. Economic growth is the aggregate effect of the quest to accumulate capital and extract profit. Capitalism collapses without growth, yet perpetual growth on a finite planet leads inexorably to environmental calamity. Those who defend capitalism argue that, as consumption switches from goods to services, economic growth can be decoupled from the use of material resources. Last week a paper in the journal New Political Economy, by Jason Hickel and Giorgos Kallis, examined this premise. They found that while some relative decoupling took place in the 20th century (material resource consumption grew, but not as quickly as economic growth), in the 21st century there has been a recoupling: rising resource consumption has so far matched or exceeded the rate of economic growth. The absolute decoupling needed to avert environmental catastrophe (a reduction in material resource use) has never been achieved, and appears impossible while economic growth continues. Green growth is an illusion.

All life on Earth relies on the self-sustaining balance between respiration and photosynthesis that has evolved over the last 4 billion years. I was taught at school in the 1960s that this has resulted in a stable equilibrium concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of 300 parts per million. This has now risen in a few decades to more than 400 parts per million and is still rising. Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years. Two things should be beyond dispute. The first is that the rise in concentration of this key ‘greenhouse’ gas is a result of the industrial activities of humans driven by the exploitation of fossil fuels. The second is that such a rapid and drastic change is bound to have profound global ecosystem consequences.

Even in the unlikely event that the 1.5 deg C target limit is not exceeded, so much irreversible damage has already been caused to the Earth’s climate-based ecosystems that millions of people in the parts of the world most affected by climate-driven catastrophe are now likely to either die or be driven to migrate in extreme desperation to the more temperate northern latitudes, fuelling massive political instability and the growth of state fascism.

So Greta is correct to argue for the response of extreme urgency that she articulates as ‘the need for panic’.

On the fact that she is a mildly autistic KS4 schoolgirl

Greta describes her Asbergers syndrome as a gift not a disease. Given the quality and clarity of her writing and speech making, who could argue with that?

However, in the Academised, marketised English education system, that is not how such autism is perceived by the business bosses of Multi-Academy Trusts, as indicated by the worsening off-rolling scandals that the government seems so disinclined to effectively address. However, autistic spectrum students can still experience great unhappiness even in good comprehensive schools that rightly place importance on the quality of relationships. Greta herself acknowledges that she struggles with social relationships in school. If schools rightly value social relationships as central to development and internalisation of deep understanding there is a clear challenge that must be explicitly addressed in the management of teaching and learning so as to recognise the diversity of responses of individual students.

I discovered that the Principal of Greta’s school is Sirrka Persson. She is a ‘facilitator’ within ‘Human Dynamics Sweden’. This is a quote from their website.

Many testify that they previously assumed that everyone thinks the same way, but that they now have an increased understanding and acceptance of each other’s differences. Human Dynamics has definitely benefited collaboration and is a simple aid to increase understanding of both their own and others’ way of working, being and developing.

Perhaps our schools too can learn from Ms Persson, who has posted her support for Greta on Facebook.

Until I retired in 2003, I was head of an inner urban comprehensive in Barrow-in-Furness for 14 years. We occasionally had students with Asbergers, who were supported with some success, but that was back in the days of generous SEN funding, Statementing and support from an excellent LEA local SEN team. We taught autistic spectrum awareness to all our students as part of our Anti-Bullying policy. This is important, as many serious problems can be avoided if classmates and other students are taught to be aware of the potential for social misunderstandings with students that may have a different way of thinking and responding to social contexts.

However we also had a severely autistic student with whom we could not cope.  Displays of  hostility and aggression towards other well-meaning students combined with extreme destructiveness towards the school can become too difficult to manage in a community comprehensive and require specialist provision, but what is certain is that policies of ‘silent corridors’ and solitary confinement in ‘isolation booths’ will never be acceptable solutions.

On whether school students need a right of ‘Agency’

Agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. While thinking about Greta Thunberg’s support for peaceful direct action, I came across this article by Tom Sherrington. I am convinced of the importance of this now that Academy MAT practice, supported by OfSTED and the DfE is so firmly moving in the opposite direction that I have copied the following from Tom’s article.

If  school regimes are permanently very tight, they’re not really giving students room to develop agency. It always strikes me as odd when schools with silent corridor policies talk about this in terms of wanting their students to walk tall, matching anyone from the local grammar schools and independent schools – none of which impose silent corridor regimes. Student behaviour isn’t truly impeccable unless students are choosing to behave impeccably – is it? Hyper-controlled behaviour is still basically a deficit model, where students aren’t trusted  – not yet.  Real agency comes when, having learned to value the truer freedoms afforded by good behaviour, students continue to behave impeccably whilst having the freedom not to. And what about learning?  If you are never given the chance to make a choice, how do you learn to make a good one?  To choose a good book? To pursue a line of enquiry beyond the set curriculum in a rigorous manner rather than a shallow one?  What’s the point of placing maximum emphasis on teaching kids to read if we don’t then later allow the possibility that students can teach themselves things by reading? Perhaps even by reading things they’ve chosen to read?  Some teachers are horrified – deeply sceptical, scoffing loudly into their twitter feeds – at the suggestion that it might be instructive to ask students for their views about things they want to learn about, ideas about the kinds of activities they value in terms of their own learning.   I remember being 14 and having some pretty clear ideas about this.  As a teacher I’ve learned a great deal from students and often been surprised and delighted by their ideas about the curriculum.  In a culture of high expectations and serious pursuit of excellence, students can bring a lot to the table, using their experience or perspectives to enrich and enhance your own.

 Just because you might never have had the joy of teaching students with great ideas doesn’t mean that students can’t ever have them.  In fact it may be that your refusal to allow for student agency in relation to their curriculum has held them back. [my bold]

I’ve written about this extensively under the title ‘co-construction‘.   Of course, you don’t just dump students in the deep-end and proclaim the virtue of the great struggle.  No.  You teach them to swim, set up a ramp of incremental challenge and, when ready, you let them jump in.  You build their capacity for independent learning gradually over time, moving from being tight and structured to a more open approach as their agency develops.   If that’s not an explicit goal, I don’t think it happens.  I’d suggest the same should apply to behaviour. 

[In my headship school, this principle was a core value. It was built into our ‘Behaviour Curriculum’]

One of my all-time favourite things to see in a school was when, at KEGS, I found a group of Y9s unsupervised in a classroom during lunch.  They informed me that I’d stumbled upon the new, independently initiated, KS3 Debating Society where the motion in hand was ‘This house would invade North Korea’.  The debate was underway with a self-appointed chair, two teams and an enthusiastic audience. That seems like true agency to me.  In my view, school culture should allow things like this to happen – at least in the end.  There are safety and safeguarding considerations, of course  – and this is very context specific.

But real agency has to be fuelled by trust so at some point trust has to be given. That requires a belief that whilst students must first learn to be trustworthy, ultimately, having learned, they should be trusted. [my bold]

The concept of ‘agency’ has for too long been absent from educational discourse and Tom’s article is timely. It surely cannot any longer be ignored in the wake of 16 year-old Greta’s astonishing achievement and leadership.

On the need to confront the government with their lies and speak the truth to power

Greta clearly needs no advice on this, as is evident from her speech to MPs, from which this is an extract.

The UK is, however, very special. Not only for its mind-blowing historical carbon debt, but also for its current, very creative, carbon accounting. Since 1990 the UK has achieved a 37% reduction of its territorial CO2 emissions, according to the Global Carbon Project. And that does sound very impressive. But these numbers do not include emissions from aviation, shipping and those associated with imports and exports. If these numbers are included the reduction is around 10% since 1990 – or an an average of 0.4% a year, according to Tyndall Manchester. And the main reason for this reduction is not a consequence of climate policies, but rather a 2001 EU directive on air quality that essentially forced the UK to close down its very old and extremely dirty coal power plants and replace them with less dirty gas power stations. And switching from one disastrous energy source to a slightly less disastrous one will of course result in a lowering of emissions.

But perhaps the most dangerous misconception about the climate crisis is that we have to “lower” our emissions. Because that is far from enough. Our emissions have to stop if we are to stay below 1.5-2.0 deg C of warming. The “lowering of emissions” is of course necessary but it is only the beginning of a fast process that must lead to a stop within a couple of decades, or less. And by “stop” I mean net zero – and then quickly on to negative figures. That rules out most of today’s politics.

It is not just its climate change policies that the government lies about. It is so arrogant that it feels able to constantly state obvious rubbish like, ‘cutting police budgets is not linked to the rise in violent crime’, and ‘Universal Credit is not linked to the proliferation of food banks’. An example is Damian Hinds statements about the value of KS2 SATs, which are comprehensively trashed in this article on the Reclaiming Schools website from which this is an extract.

Firstly we are told that children’s learning is assessed through national standardised tests ‘all over the world, from France to Finland and America to Australia’. This is not exactly a lie, just ‘economical with the truth’. Finland, as is well known, does not use national tests until age 18. France has recently introduced some national tests, but very light touch (20 minutes in length). ‘In most US States,  they happen annually.’ True, but anyone who thinks they raise achievement should look at the international PISA assessments where the USA, like England, bounces along the bottom.

Hinds goes on to argue that ‘these assessments do not exist to check up on our children’ but ‘to keep account of the system, and those responsible for delivering it’. If SATs are there to check the system is working, PISA does that already – and shows that it is working poorly.

The second argument is different: to check on the ‘deliverers’, the teachers. Is this supposed to reassure the parents of over-stressed children? England is a laboratory for control and surveillance. Here standardised tests link to league tables, link to Ofsted, link to performance pay, link to academisation, link to market competition… to create a total system of stress and suspicion. It is no use Hinds arguing that ‘all over the world, schools guide children through tests without them feeling pressured.’ He presides over a nightmare system which leads headteachers to pass the pressure down the line to teachers who pass it on to pupils – a system held together by fear and stress. It is disingenuous to pretend it’s just an attitude problem. Hinds continues: ‘Imagine if the government announced that it was going to ban dental exams or stop opticians measuring our eyesight. People would be rightly horrified’.

Indeed, but surely dental exams and eye tests are for the individual’s good, not to question the professionalism of dentists and opticians. [my bold]

On the wisdom of children

Our grandchildren are a great joy and this can even apply to the programmes they watch on CBBC. One such is ‘So Awkward’. This is a comprehensive school soap, but ‘Grange Hill’ it isn’t. Far from being a gritty depiction of an urban comp, this is set in a fictitious ‘smart blazer and tie’ school in an affluent suburb.

However, its writers must include ex-secondary teachers because school life and the ‘awkward’ stresses felt by teachers and their and adolescent students are so sharply and hilariously observed. There have now been a great many episodes so its brilliantly talented young cast is now suffering the ‘Harry Potter’ effect and very obviously ‘growing up’ with each new series.

The recurring theme of ‘So Awkward’ that is so relevant to this article is that the school students are always so much wiser than the adults: the parents, teachers and the headmistress.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 10:56

Where to start with this wide-ranging article?   First, climate change.  Focussing on clmate change actually diverts attention from immediate problems: pollution, waste, profligate use of earth's resources, protecting food supply.

These problems won't be reduced unless there's a global movement to do so.   Protesters interrupting traffic in London on sunny April days will have no effect on China or Donald Trump.  Neither will they be of any help to millions of people who  have to travel to work (because there's no work locally), to school (because the local school was closed years ago) or to hospital (ditto small cottage hospitals and, a disturbing trend, the closure of GP services).


agov's picture
Tue, 30/04/2019 - 12:21

"Where to start with this wide-ranging article?"

Wasting your time Janet. Sadly, it seems mostly far Left propaganda and not much else from that direction these days - what had been a source of required reading now usually appears barely worth skimming through. Perhaps it's a twitter mob infection. It's a shame. Reminiscent of far off days of going to a Labour party (before it was destroyed by the Blair gang and turned into a absurd joke by the Corbynistas of Militant - oops, Momentum) meeting and getting harangued by someone who had managed to read one book - I mean a whole one; all one of it: so had to be right.

Poor little girl -

Seems, to quote a post on another site, -

"Greta Thunberg’s school strike coincided with the launch of a book about climate change written by her mother, Malena Ernman.

And's its also remembering that Thunberg’s school strike was publicised online by... you guessed it, the same PR man who was publicising her mother's climate change book.

Greta Thunberg is little more than a shill for her mother and her PR man."

Then again, it seems she has already made a million pounds out of her selfless devotion to skipping school. And self-righteous well-off children get to bunk off school to spend a day shouting naughty words, seeing if they can find someone to get off with, and leaving a huge dump of litter behind for working class people to clear up after them. All to the cheers of the very Left that does so much to bring state schools into disrepute.

Still, it is important to make sure those smelly ordinary people are told what it is not ok for them to do -

Fancy citing the BBC -

Here's an explanation of how the far Left BBC propaganda channels have been broadcasting opinions as fact for years -

It's as if the far Left are frightened of informed discussion of the science by physicists i.e. real ones, not climate change 'scientists'. So they banned it and substituted far Left sectarians.

But isn't the German Empire (aka the EU) wonderful! Wonder if this is true - 'Rainforests are being destroyed, particularly in SE Asia, to create palm oil plantations, used for biofuel (among other things) that by EU law must now go into our petrol to lower CO2 emissions and stop global warming!'.

Anyone noticed that the world's coastal cities are not permanently under water as was claimed to be absolutely, certainly, without any doubt, definitely going to happen by now just a few short years ago. But that's only a fact (i.e. something true) so probably very wrong to mention it.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Tue, 30/04/2019 - 12:52

Another agov rant.quoting the Daily Telegraph and far right fake news sources. Most of this drivel is so wacky it is not worth acknowledging, let alone responding to. I find Greta's own words far more convincing. 

John Mountford's picture
Tue, 30/04/2019 - 19:46

There's real tragedy in your comments, agov. You have made this genuine crisis all about the personality of a young girl, just like the feeble minded twits on twitter and elsewhere. The world is warming because of decades of us failing to address the real concerns of real scientists about rocketing CO2 emissions. We had choices back then that would have made a difference. We let big business and self-driven politicians take the lead. The threat we now face is truly existential. The choices we now have are more challenging and, therefore, unlikely to be enacted. By the way, global sea level is on the rise. Stick around long enough and you will eventually have the proof that we left it too late to avert the crisis. Now that really is silly!

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 01/05/2019 - 09:11

 Narrow focussing on climate change deflects attention from other threats.  The cry seems to be 'reduce Co2 emissions and problem solved'.  That's simplistic.  There are other pressing problems: pollution (and I include excessive carbon emissions in this), waste (producing it and disposing of it), food supply and one I forgot earlier: water.

All this needs joined-up thinking from governments and changes in individual behaviour.  But that isn't always easy.  As you imply, some businesses have a vested interested in selling stuff today which willl produce harm tomorrow.  And even changing behaviour can have unintended consequences (wait for my next comment).


agov's picture
Wed, 01/05/2019 - 12:02

Yes, ignore those horrible fact thingies that don't fit the dogma. Just like the BBC fake news channels. The green god has replaced the fallen Marx god as the religion of those who need to believe.

agov's picture
Wed, 01/05/2019 - 12:03

The world is warming but the climate scammers spent years saying it was cooling until they needed a new story. Typical of the 'say anything to get the money' (- and mostly they are refused research grants unless they say they believe the new religion) types. Until it's inconvenient. Then say something else. This wondrous new 'science' - never knowingly correct about anything. Except on how much money it can make by making new 'predictions'. And all those lovely plane trips to exotic locations to tell other people to not to fly.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 01/05/2019 - 09:35

Take a simple example: for years I've brought washing powder tablets in a recyclable cardboard box.  Two tablets were encased in plastic wrapping.   Now I find these have just been discontinued and replaced with plastic pouches of liquid detergent in a plastic box.    I'm going back to loose powder in cardboard boxes.  But... cardboard boxes filled with soap powder are larger than little plastic boxes.  Fewer boxes in lorries = more lorries belching out emissions.   Cardboard boxes can break - adding to waste (and loss of profit for either manufacturer or shop).  They might even be heavier (don't know the answer to that one).

Roger Titcombe's picture
Wed, 01/05/2019 - 21:07

Utter conspiracy theory drivel. I bet you don't believe in MMR vaccinations either.

John Mountford's picture
Wed, 01/05/2019 - 21:19

I couldn't see how you might acquire membership of this august body But you'll crack it, I'm sure.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 02/05/2019 - 09:32

The problems facing humanity won't be made less serious by trading insults or winding up those on a different side.  It just entrenches positions.  That's why I suggested tackling pollution now (including Co2 emissions) together with making long-term plans to reduce waste, preserve soil productivity. increase food security and ensure we have enough water.  This takes leadership and persuasion to bring both sides together. 

The step taken yesterday to declare a environmental and climate emergency is welcome but, media reports appear to miss out the environment bit to concentrate on 'climate' (thereby emitting snorts from climate change sceptics, no doubt).  Politicians have welcomed it but the danger is that it's just lip service.

That said, the NAO published 'Environmental metrics: government’s approach to monitoring the state of the natural environment' in January.  I don't remember any media interest.  It discussed how the government is using metrics to assess how well it's meeting environmental goals (including its 25 year Enviornmental Plan which I didn't know existed).

The NAO found the UK system of monitoring was good BUT raised concerns:

1  There is a 'patchwork of sets of metrics that do not align clearly with government’s overall objectives or with each other'

2   There are 'important gaps'

3   The NAO has 'concern about how effectively metrics are used to inform decision-making in practice.'

The NAO said the government should:

1   ‘strengthen governance arrangements over environmental metrics, so that there is a single point of responsibility for each set within government.’

 2   ‘improve accountability for the 25-year plan metrics, by setting clear public expectations for the scale of improvement…’

3   ‘…ensure that the breadth of environmental data does not decline without good reason after EU exit.’

 4    ‘fill data gaps, particularly through greater use of geospatial data, including satellite imagery’

 5   ‘strengthen safeguards for the new environmental watchdog’s independence’ 

CORRECTION: Earlier versions of this comment contained garbled grammar and weird formatting.  Apologies.  And I know, the comment's too long.


Roger Titcombe's picture
Thu, 02/05/2019 - 12:41

Go to Aldi - not only less packaging but much cheaper and just as effective as the brands.

agov's picture
Thu, 02/05/2019 - 12:49

Ahh - The loss making Guardian, written by the privately educated patronisising classes for the gullible.

agov's picture
Thu, 02/05/2019 - 12:51

Well at least that would be an achievement for you. Along with being the inventor of the science of genetics. Well done.

John Mountford's picture
Thu, 02/05/2019 - 15:49

In clarification, this message about the Flat Earth Society was for the benefit of agov.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 02/05/2019 - 12:48

My purchases were from Lidl - also much cheaper and recommended by Which (or it might have been Good Housekeeping) as the second most effective detergent for washing machines.  Very disappointed Lidl has now put the product in plastic tubs.  Fortunately, I've found loose soap powder in cardboard boxes and will be making a switch.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 02/05/2019 - 13:48

The comments appear to be arriving in an odd order so we've got remarks about soap powder, Audi, Lidl and the Guardian all mixed together with various insults and lengthy bits.  I don't suppose anyone's reading them except you, me, Roger and John but if they are they might wonder what they've stumbled into.

PS  I'm not sure where this remark will appear.  Wherever it is, it's likely to be in the wrong place making the thread even more incomprehensible.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 11:18

Second, Asberger's.   Interviewed on Today, Greta was asked if her Asberger's made her look at the world in black and white without nuance.  She agreed. 

This isn't just a feature of autism, of course.  Think of the politicians who paint the world in similar colours.  Gove is a case in point: as education secretary he divided teachers into those who supported him ('good') and those who didn't ('bad').  His opposers were called 'Marxists' or the 'Blob'.  There's much political capital to be made from dividing people into 'them' or 'us'.

Asberger's may be a gift, as Greta says. But it also brings problems of difference leading to a lack of understanding and bullying.   I, too, taught a boy with Asberger's at a time when knowledge of autism was poor.  The school hadn't been told because his parents had been advised not to say anything.  As such, he was denied his entitlement to extra help throughout his school life.

At age 14, not before, we were made aware and a specialist came to help.  The boy was a Catholic with a deep belief in Hell.  Ond day he was particularly upset.  It appeared he'd been told off in a previous lesson and was terrified this minor intransigence would be another black mark on his life-long behaviour ledger.  Too literal an understanding led to real terror.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 11:43

You are right about the range and depth of the problems that autistic spectrum pupils can bring to teachers and their classmates, which is all the more reason to focus on how to produce more Greta's rather than on the failures. Special Educational Needs in English schools is in a state of utter crisis. Greta is lucky to be Swedish.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 11:35

Focussing on clmate change actually diverts attention from immediate problems: pollution, waste, profligate use of earth's resources, protecting food supply.

Oh dear Janet, you still don't get it. You are making a category error. Climate change is likely to bring about the extinction of human society as we know it. It is like the BBC news presenter who questioned Greta about the practicality of her proposals in terms of restrictions on aviation, motoring, gas central heating etc. None of these are life threatening.

Mozambique is a central African country smack in the middle of the latitude band that climate scientists predict will be first and then most seriously affected by climate change. By 'most seriously affected' I mean 'wiped out' as viable human habititats. Cyclones have until now been rare in Mozambique (many decades spart). They have just had two within a few weeks. The devastion and loss of life has been huge.

Watch Simon Reeves 'Tropic of Cancer' series where he is Bangladesh. Here most of the country lies in river deltas fed by the melting glaciers of the Himalayas. The muddy land is only a few feet above the rivers and is being washed away faster than the poor villagers can move their homes. No-one worries about a few Indian Ocean islands disappearing under the sea (although they should), but Bangladesh has a population of 165 million. I could go ON AND ON AND ON etc with examples.

The concerns you mention in your first paragraph are very real, but the killer is 'protecting food supply'. From the US bread basket prairies to the paddy fields of Asia, climate change will devastate food productivity, adding starvation to loss of homes, drowning in floods or being burned alive in forest fires.

Your worst argument is that 'it is no use worrying because global action is needed and it won't happen'. Too true! But the only alternatives are mass global insurrection or reaching for the suicide pills. Sure everybody with at least half a brain willing to spend more than a few minutes thinking about it will go for the former. The risk is that it will be too late. 

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 12:46

You misunderstand my comment.  Climate change is happening but campaigners are missing a trick in concentrating on the future rather than now (which will, of course, affect the future).  I also did not argue it's no use worrying because China and Trump won't take any notice. 

I'm not diminishing the threat of climate change and that human activity has made it far worse.   But there's been climate change in the past.  There's been a ice age.  And England was once covered in a tropical sea.  This all takes place over eons of times.  But a couple of really bad explosions could (note, I said 'could') plunge the world into a volcanic winter.  More likely than exploding super-volcanoes, however, is the threat of nuclear war - mutually-assured destruction.  Or the earth could be hit by a massive asteroid..

A fatalistic view would be to stop worrying about tomorrow, grab a drink and watch the sunset.  That's a selfish option.  That's why I said think about problems today.  Make life better for all today.  That way, taking action could help forestall problems tomorrow.  But make no mistake.  At some time in the future - the further away the better- humans will go the way of the dinosaurs.  And I can't help thinking the planet would be better off without us.




Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 13:03

Janet, when you are in a hole you really should stop digging. You are using the climate change denial arguments of the likes of Nigel Lawson (now rightly banned from expressing them on the BBC). The difference between your list of possible doomsday scenarios (nuclear war, supervolcanos, asteroid strikes etc) and climate change, is that unlike your list (that I could extent quite a bit), climate catastrophe is absolutely certain unless extreme global mitigating action is taken immediately. Jeremy Corbyn gets it, which is why Labour is pushing for the UK to declare a climate change crisis NOW. There is no better reason for voting Labour which is why Labour is so massively supported by younger people.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 14:03

What part of  'Climate change is happening' didn't you understand?  Rather than denying climate change, I've acknowledged it.  

As for Corbyn, I'm not sure he 'gets it' really.  His brother thinks he's a climate change sceptic at heart but it's a useful vote winner.  It's rather like his having to support remain when he'd rather support leave.

Gove has done the same - producing a video saying how the Tories will beat climate change.  Oh please.  This is the government that supports fracking. 



Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 14:36

Nobody is denying that climate change is happening. This includes Trump. The climate change denial movement, which is massively and covertly financed by the fossil fuel industry, pushes the same line as you. 'It's not caused by the releasing (mainly in the last 200 years) the solar energy stored in the bodies of ancient plants and animals as coal, oil and gas over millions of years'. This argument is completely wrong, utterly totally and without any doubt. It is in the same category of duplicitous lying as the claims of the tobacco industry that smoking does not cause lung cancer.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 15:53

Nowhere did I say climate change wasn't aggravated by what human beings have released into the atmosphere.  Yes, I did write that there has been climate change during the earth's existence - it's likely inevitable over millions of years.   But my insistence we deal with pollution now is an argument to use against those you call the 'climate change denial movement'.  That's because it's rooted in today and not in the future.   What's happening today is undeniable.  What's happening tomorrow can be brushed aside by vested interests.   My focus on today implies I know about humanity's contribution to atmospheric changes which are affecting the climate..  I'm sorry it wasn't explicit enough to deflect an accusation of 'duplicitous lying' or pushing a line propagated by the fossil fuel industry.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 16:10

It is wrong to conflate carbon dioxide, which is not a pollutant, with (for example) the oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, which are. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is essential to life on earth. The increase of Carbon Dioxide from 300 to 400 parts per million is making our lawns and farmers crops grow faster. The problem arises because Carbon Dioxide is also a  'greehouse gas'. It reduces the escape of the sun's heat that is reflected from the earth, so causing the planet to warm up. At these tiny concentrations Carbon Dioxide is harmless to our health, but still massively damaging to our planet if they increase. The climate change issue is therefore completely separate to the general issue of 'pollution'.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 17:00

Pollution, I would have thought, included carbon emissions.  Therefore dealing with pollution would reduce carbon emissions, surely?


Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 17:48

No. Carbon dioxide is not pollution. It's what is in the bubbles of fizzy drinks. It is a basic essential and building block of life. Plants take in carbon dioxide and water and using the energy of sunlight produce sugars and protein from those ingredients. Life on earth is just as dependent on carbon dioxide as it is on oxygen. When we talk about 'carbon emmissions' we mean carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) but not a pollutant  and  methane CH4, which contains carbon and is a greenhouse gas AND a poison. On the other hand carbon monoxide is a poisonous pollutant  produced by car engines and defective gas boilers, but is not a greenhouse gas.

Common atmospheric pollutants include nitrogen oxides (NOX) and sulphur dioxide. Reducing these does not decrease 'carbon emmissions'.

So controlling pollutants and reducing 'carbon emmissions' are not the same thing at all.

The carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and other animals is harmless unless the concentration is so high as to exclude oxygen so that you suffocate.

Burning the fossil fuels carbon and oil to produce electricity and by industries and global methods of transportation produce the vast amounts of carbon dioxide that are causing global warming, although the methane produced by farting cows and bullocks is also significant. 

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 12:49

Third: Reclaiming Schools is wrong about PISA tests.  A literal reading of PISA results does not show the UK doing badly (apart from in Wales).  In the last round of PISA,  UK 15-year-olds scored above the OECD average in Science, just above the average in reading and average in maths.

Leave aside their unreliability, if PISA is going to be used as evidence then the evidence should say what Reclaiming Schools says it says.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 13:11

Reclaiming Schools is indeed wrong about the PISA results. They are far worse than that as is explained in my analysis that is supported by international academics and is yet to be refuted.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 14:09

PISA results may indeed be worse according to your analysis.    But Reclaiming Schools wasn't citing your analysis but PISA itself.  And a literal reading of the results is exactly as I said.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 14:15

Regarding my PISA article this has had 1,115 views (and rising) on my website. It was also posted on LSN.

There has been no challenge on either platform to the methodology or the conclusions.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 14:20

So what? Either the true interpretation of PISA evidence supports the claims on the Reclaiming Schools website or it doesn't. The fact is that it does - with bells on.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 14:46

It does matter.   It matters a lot.  If I claim a source says (x) when it actually says (y), then I am misleading my readers.

For example, a witness in court says the attacker had red hair.  A local paper writes the witness said the attacker had blonde hair.  That would be an inaccurate reporting of what the witness said.  It's revealed later than the attacker did indeed have blonde hair.  But that doesn't change the fact that the witness said the hair was red.  If the paper insists on repeating that the witness said the hair was blonde, then this is still misrepresenting what the witness actually said. 

PISA says the UK 15 year-olds (except in Wales) perform above average in science, slightly above average in reading and average in maths PISA tests.  You may not agree with that.  I may not agree with that.  But that is what PISA says. And if Reclaiming Schools or Michael Gove or Nick Gibb says PISA says something different, then they are not recording what is said accurately.

Accurate reporting matters.  

Roger Titcombe's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 15:54

PISA says the UK 15 year-olds (except in Wales) perform above average in science, slightly above average in reading and average in maths PISA tests.  You may not agree with that.

The problem is that this conclusion is based on the raw PISA test scores. It is like comparing the raw GCSE scores of students in grammar schools with those in comprehensives. This is a flawed comparison because on average grammar school students have a higher IQ than do comprehensive school students. Grammar schools should be performing better than comprehensives. If the raw scores of grammar schools come out only average, then it is flawed reasoning to claim that the effectiveness of grammar schools is average. It is not. It is worse than that.

In the PISA tests the cohorts of students from the different national education systems that take the same PISA tests are different in terms of their mean IQs - sometimes massively so. For this reason the raw scores for each national education system cannot be used to judge the effectiveness of said education system.

I am well aware that talk of IQs makes some people uncomfortable, but if we want to have meaningful discussions about education then they just have to get over it.

For example, Mossbourne Academy like many others, admits pupils to its school on the basis of IQ bands as measured by CATs. There are four bands. It also sets its science students by ability. Set 1 has an average IQ that is much higher than Set 4. If the students from Sets 1 and Set 4 all took the same PISA science test and got the same average raw score you could not conclude that set 1 had been taught as effectively as Set 4 could you?

It is the same argument. The PISA system reports the raw scores in the science tests. It then makes the obviously flawed decision to treat these raw scores as indicative of the effectiveness of said education systems.

I really can't understand your argument. The PISA system is either flawed or it isn't. Whether the flawed conclusions are accurately reported or not, they are still flawed conclusions. The relevant section of my article may help.

So what can we say about the UK (49th) and USA (53rd) systems?

There is clearly very little to be positive about, that is for sure. Even more depressing is that the frantic pace of reform is to be stepped up with more testing, more Academies and Free Schools, more faith schools with their own enhanced sectarian admissions rules and now the imposition of selective grammar schools. It would be hard to come up with proposals to make the national education system worse.

The most important message to the DfE is the key role of cognitive ability in driving higher attainment. This needs more of the well-proven developmental pedagogy that the ideology of marketisation is replacing with knowledge-focussed rote learning and behaviourism, enforced by ever more draconian and abusive systems of harsh discipline.

The potential for raising standards through exploiting the potential of ‘plastic intelligence’ is explained here, and the dire consequences of further attempts to ‘close the gap’ are set out here.

Anyone that reads my book and/or my articles will be familiar with my argument. Those that don't like it either won't read it, or won't believe it. Fine, but then they are obliged to debate the issues on the basis of evidence which is what I do.

The 'Reclaiming Schools' article is making the same argument as me. The only mistake they are making is not realising that the corrected PISA judgements of the English education system much worse then they thought. 

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 29/04/2019 - 16:47

Reclaiming Schools is not making the same argument as you.  It is citing PISA.  And if it's citing PISA, it should say what PISA says, like it or not.  Or, better still, not invoke PISA at all.

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.