We have yet to see the first sample papers for the new GCSE in natural history to be announced by education secretary Nadhim Zahawi this week, but the fact that it has come about after lobbying by Caroline Lucas, Chris Packham and other green activists is a pretty good guide as to what might be in store: yet another fashionable, soft subject which is designed to indoctrinate rather than educate. It is a fair guess where it will lead: to children, especially from state comprehensives, being diverted from the more academically-rigorous subjects which would gain them access to the best universities.
Far from the claim that the new subject will 'fill a hole in the curriculum', there is nothing in the proposals by the OCR examination board which is not already covered in biology or geography. 'Natural history' will trawl through areas such as dinosaurs, evolution, volcanoes, ice ages – all of which will be very familiar to anyone who has studied at school over the past century. What is different is the introduction of political spin into those subjects.
Whereas biology and geography are neutral subjects which are dedicated simply to understanding the world – or at least they started that way – the proposed natural history curriculum looks set to merge genuine study with green propaganda. According to the OCR, children will be taught, for example, the 'impact of diet choices for land usage and environmental impact'. In other words they are going to have it blasted down their throats that they mustn’t choose meat from the school canteen or the hedgehogs will get it. That isn’t educating children to think for themselves; it is trying to train them to be the next generation of environmental activists.
The natural history GCSE is the latest manifestation of the old Marxist trick of trying to advance your politics by drumming them into the impressionable young. We already have a generation of children traumatised into thinking that humans, if not the entire natural world, is doomed by climate change; God knows what emotional state they are going to be in after they have been blasted with the thoughts and ideas of Chris Packham.
Conservatives have been far too sleepy about the use of the school curriculum to advance the political ideas of the left. Universities have also been too quiet about the rise of soft GCSEs. They should be demanding to go through the curriculum of the proposed natural history GCSE. If it doesn’t come up to rigorous academic standards they should be saying: we will not be recognising this qualification in our admission processes. If you want to come to a top university to study a scientific subject you should be studying biology, physics and chemistry – otherwise accept that your options for higher education will be limited.