Inconvenient, yes, but it's not the whole truth

14th September 2007 at 01:00
When I was a science teacher in the 1970s and 1980s I believed education was about presenting facts in a fair and impartial way.

There was a tiny minority of teachers who abused their position and imparted their own political beliefs to pupils. This led the Government to insert a clause into the Education Act 1986 to ban teaching partisan political views and ensure political issues are presented in a balanced manner.

Today it is the Government that is being taken to a judicial review on its decision to impose Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth on to secondary schools. I have joined others to support Stuart Dimmock, a parent, in bringing this matter to court.

I cannot recall any other instance of so much direct influence being applied to schools as has happened with regard to climate change. Alan Johnson, the former Education Secretary, let the truth slip out when he said: "Influencing the opinions of children is crucial." So education is now no longer about simply informing, but about "influencing". Teachers have become the means of imparting propaganda to children.

When it comes to influencing opinions, this Government has form. "Dodgy dossier" and "sexed up" material are only too familiar. Mr Gore, in the opinion of many scientists, has also produced a "dodgy dossier" in order to convince the world that unless it adopts his political solutions, the planet will face catastrophe.

I am not denying that our climate is changing and I accept that carbon dioxide does absorb some heat in the atmosphere (though nowhere near as much as water vapour), but that is a far cry from accepting the apocalyptic predictions in Mr Gore's polemic. If I were expected to show his film to a class, I would feel obliged to point out that there are other accepted explanations for many of the examples he cites as being due to global warming. I hope today's teachers will feel able to do the same.

Since the judicial review proceedings started the Government has made several amendments to the guidance to teachers about use of the film to try to mitigate its worst excesses, but welcome as this is, it falls far short of that required to provide balance. The debate about climate change is far from settled and it is dishonest of the Government to claim it is. What is needed in schools is a straightforward setting out of the undisputed facts and an admission that there is still a lot of uncertainty about this very complex subject, for that is the truth.

To me the case is clear. I hope the judge has the courage to look at the case with the utmost impartiality and give a decision that reflects the spirit as well as the letter of the law. Out children deserve nothing less.

Derek Tipp

is a Conservative councillor on New Forest district council

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