Should ESD be about sustainable development at all?
An odd question to ask, perhaps, and many will think the response a no-brainer, as we watch coasts crumble and sea levels rise, the skies grow darker yet, and poverty and injustice stalk the planet; but, for others, this is all far too obvious. Take this recent comment from an international ESD guru:
"It is a mistake to present ESD primarily as the inclusion of sustainable development issues in the curriculum. It will switch off many colleagues and also be critqued by ESD experts familiar with best practice in the field. Efs (sic) is as much about new ways of thinking and engaging as it is about knowing and doing."
Well, heaven forfend that we should upset ESD experts.
Whilst there is obviously something in all this, we do need to ask: "thinking and engaging" about what – and why? Given that schools exist to help students prepare for what follows (whether further study, training, work – or just life), in sustainability terms, this suggests that a creative emphasis on the development of skills of critical thinking, dialogue and debate – stressing the iterative nature of learning, participation and decision-making throughout life – ought to be at least as great or even greater than that on the what, remembering that some focus on content is needed so as to have something to be critically thinking, dialoguing and debating, about.
Getting all this in some sort of credible, useful and age-appropriate balance is the trick, and remains work in progress.