I recently watched a video that will inspire any educator, environmentalist, and techno-geek. It is called “Education for a Sustainable Future” and is posted on YouTube here:
Less than an hour long, the film highlights how our current public education fails our children and our planet. There is too much rote memorization and focus on finding answers, and there is a frightening lack of collaborative learning and critical thinking – both of which are vital to scientific innovation. Step by step, this video explains how contemporary classrooms do not foster curious minds; they promote competition and fear of failure. As adults, we understand all too well the pressure that competition places on us in our day-to-day lives and how it magnifies our fear of failure. The adult world relies heavily on competition, and it has trickled down to our youth, so much so that young students appear to be in training to survive our ever-expanding capitalist economy. That training – ahem, education – prevents future generations from shifting our civilization from one of consumption to one of sustainability.
We must ask ourselves: What is the purpose of education? Is it to generate another generation of paper-pushers and laborers? Is it for the sake of individual growth and curiosity? This film argues that we should be designing our educational system so that it best serves the present and future goals of our civilization. That means we need to alter its structure so that it is more friendly to collaborative projects, reduce the emphasis on competition, create new science programs that provide real-world skills like gardening, and establish learning opportunities that reconnect children with the natural world.
“Education for a Sustainable Future” offers suggestions on how to move towards this restructuring. We must alter our conception of education and its purpose. Rather than consider schooling as preparation for college and a job, our perspective should widen to consider the common good. The filmmakers suggest:
1. Working towards establishing the world’s resources as a common heritage for all people on Earth.
2. Reclaiming and restore the environment to as nearly a natural condition as possible.
3. Sharing and applying new technologies for the benefit of all.
4. Focusing on interpersonal skills to improve relationships.
5. Encouraging the widest range of creativity and incentives towards constructive endeavors.
Our relationship to one another, science, and the natural world are all greatly impacted by our educational experiences. Thinking is driven by questions, but our educational system values answers. Therein lies the conflict; the progress of our society is stalled simply because we focus so much on memorizing the right answers that we forgot how to ask important questions. When we cannot question, we are powerless to challenge the status quo.