Australian teachers’ ethical dilemmas regarding climate change in the midst of ecological crisis

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Project title

"Australian teachers’ climate-change related ethical dilemmas in the midst of ecological crisis (especially the Australian bushfire crisis)"

Description

As UNESCO (2019, p. 4) states, “[c]limate change is the defining challenge of our time” and education is “an essential element for mounting an adequate response to it”.

As part of our collective moral responsibility for addressing climate change, teachers have specific responsibilities, including helping students to understand climate science and encouraging students to develop pro-environmental values and behaviours.

However, these responsibilities also give rise to various ethical and professional dilemmas. For example, some research has shown that because of the highly politicised public debate about climate change, many teachers worry about accusations of political indoctrination if they encourage students to accept, and act on, climate science. Such dilemmas are even more pronounced when teaching within the context of ecological related crises, like the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires, as such crises provoke even more intense public debate about climate change.

By drawing on relevant philosophical literature, this project will examine the ethical dilemmas teachers may encounter when teaching about climate change. We believe that existing philosophical literature is pertinent to understanding and responding to such dilemmas, especially literature on indoctrination and values education; the teaching of controversial topics; epistemological criteria and curriculum content; student voice and student participation rights; and teacher professional ethics. We aim to identify and develop educational theories and practices, and principles of professional ethics, to help teachers navigate these dilemmas.

We will also interview Australian school teachers in order to provide concrete examples, illustrations, and practical examples to help elucidate our more abstract philosophical analysis.

Investigators