Exam question on climate change angers Quebec high school students

People hold up signs demanding action on climate change during a demonstration in Montreal, Saturday, December 8, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

A Quebec high school French exam question that asked students about adapting to climate change has drawn a torrent of online criticism, as teens used memes and videos to denounce what they see as government inaction on climate issues.

The question on last week’s ministry exam for Grade 11 students asked: “Can we adapt to climate change?”

It quickly drew the ire of students like 17-year-old Francis Claude, who feels the way the question was phrased suggests the government has accepted climate change.

“It’s like they want to abandon the fight against climate change, and just make do and adapt,” said Claude, whose Facebook group dedicated to the exam has exploded to almost 37,000 members in recent days.

Story continues below advertisement

Claude said the members of his generation are committed to fighting environmental destruction, not adapting to it.

WATCH: Climate change on fast-forward in Canada

Click to play video: 'Report: Climate change on fast-forward in Canada'
Report: Climate change on fast-forward in Canada

“What’s the point of studying for a future we’re not going to have?” said Claude, who attends Mont-Ste-Anne School in Beaupre, 40 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.

Claude said he started the Facebook group so students could exchange study tips and share jokes and memes about the exam process. But it has now morphed into a sort of environmental forum, where students direct their anger at the government and its perceived inaction.

He said many students find it ironic that the Quebec government is testing them on climate change at all.

“I couldn’t believe that they’d dare to give us that question when we are the ones who are most concerned with climate change,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement
WATCH: Global National’s Dawna Friesen speaks to North Carolina State University PhD student Danielle Lawson about how children are leading the conversation and changing the attitudes of adults.
Click to play video: 'Kids can influence parents’ concerns about climate change'
Kids can influence parents’ concerns about climate change

Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge reacted on Twitter last week, saying it would have been better had the exam asked students how to fight climate change, rather than how to adapt to it.

“On the other hand, I’m proud that the youth are so sensitized and mobilized on this issue,” he wrote.

Olivia Ralston, another student at Mont-Ste-Anne school, said some students found the question confusing since it didn’t really match up to the study materials. She also questioned the use of the word “adapt.”

“We are living in this world, and we’re not going to live anywhere else, so why shouldn’t we try to change it?” she said.

Ralston said some students put a green dot on their exam to signify climate change, and others have since started wearing the symbol as a call for action.

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: Canadians wants climate change action, but not at any cost, poll says

Click to play video: 'Poll: Canadians wants climate change action, but not at any cost'
Poll: Canadians wants climate change action, but not at any cost

Seventeen-year-old Montreal student Kiaira Morand-Tremblay says many young people are frustrated that older generations don’t seem to feel the same sense of urgency.

“We’re able to raise, I don’t know how much money to rebuild the (Notre Dame) Paris cathedral, but for the climate, it’s like they do nothing,” she said.

The controversy comes as tens of thousands of students across Canada have been staging demonstrations and school strikes as part of a global youth-led movement to demand action on environmental issues.

READ MORE: Canada’s slow progress on climate change ‘disturbing, ’environmental watchdog says

Claude said many of the students commenting on the exam are planning further action, including another major protest in Montreal and Quebec City on May 17.

Story continues below advertisement

Organizers’ demands include a government commitment to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius and to partner with environmentalists to establish an education program to sensitize the public to the climate crisis, he said.

Sponsored content