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“What’s climate change got to do with education?”

May 15th, 2009
cracked-earth

Negev Desert (C) Rachel Bolstad, 2007

The title of this posting is a verbatim question I was asked by a teacher after a presentation I gave at their school last year. At the time, the question left me a bit stunned, and I have been wanting to write a posting about it ever since.

To give you a sense of context (and why the question shocked me), here was the gist of the presentation I’d just given (or at least a small segment of it). I’d used the work of Jane Gilbert and others to discuss how certain Industrial Age social and economic imperatives haveĀ  influenced the development of the systems, structures, and ideas we have about secondary education today. I discussed some of the major shift in concepts of what “knowledge” is and what it does, and how many of these new ideas have arisen in the world outside education (see more about that here and here ). I talked about some of the important capabilities, dispositions, competencies etc that 21st century education ought to be focussing on – such as those mentioned here . Then, I gave what I THOUGHT was a good example to illustrate exactly WHY we must take all this seriously, and WHY these kinds of 21st century learning approaches really do matter.

india

Delhi, India (C) Rachel Bolstad, 2005

I said something along the lines that the 21st century world brings with it a whole new gamut of changes and challenges – social, economical, political, and environmental – that will require us to be able to think and act in new ways. We are in a world where the future is unknown – and where people need the ability to deal with uncertainty, be confident to take on open-ended challenges, where the solution CAN’T be known in advance, and where we can no longer assume we can leave things up to some “authority” to fix the problems we (and they) have collectively created. A world in which people will need to rapidly build new knowledge to address emerging challenges, collaborating across disciplines, cultures, and nations, drawing on many sources of evidence, and constantly re-evaluating decisions and actions as new knowledge and evidence is generated, with a concern for the impacts of their decisions and actions on the people and world they live in. A world which demands much more of its citizens, and in turn, demands much more of or education systems.

flooding

Flooding, Bangkok. (C) Rachel Bolstad, 2006

Climate change – a global problem which is a genuinely open-ended challenge, and which has deeply interconnected social, political, scientific, and economic dimensions – and which we are all affected by (and which we all affect) – what could be a better example to illustrate why we need to think again about what we are doing as educators? Or so I thought.

Yet at the end of my presentation, it seemed at least one teacher could not see that climate change had any relevance whatsoever to education. I wonder, what DID they think was the point of education? Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to have this conversation with the teacher, nor was I able to actually give a response to the question (assuming it was really a question, rather than a rhetorical statement of exasperation at my presentation!)

Since I never was able to discuss this with the teacher, I plan to start this conversation on shiftingthinking.org instead. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be building up some material on our “Theory” section to explain some of the current thinking in environmental and sustainability education, why it matters, and why this ought to be absolutely central to our thinking about 21st century learning and education. We’ll also be blogging more in this area, and pointing you towards other blogs, resources, and people who can help us learn more.

I’d love to hear from any and all of you out there who are passionate about environmental and sustainability education!

Future focussed issues, Shifting schooling , , , , ,