As I noted yesterday, I am at St George's House, Windsor, at a consultation with a focus on young people and the sustainable development goals. As an introduction to four presentations (from across the UK) about what they are trying to achieve when exploring the SDGs with young people, the following text was agreed by the presenters:
For the sustainable development goals to be successful – citizens, including young people, must be provided with:
- participatory, creative and transformative learning experiences which enable them to understand the challenges, complexities, injustices, interdependencies of our world through addressing topics such as climate change and poverty
- the opportunity to explore and understand the opportunities, connections, common aspirations and common humanity within our world
- an education which provides them with the opportunity to develop the essential skills, attitudes and dispositions that will enable and empower them as active citizens contributing to the achievement of the goals and thus a fair and sustainable world through their own choices, behaviours and actions.
Although universal and collaborative, the goals themselves are not perfect. Some feel they do not go far enough to address the root causes of global poverty and inequality and indeed may reinforce the unjust international system. We must ensure that actions taken to address the SDGs use social justice rather than charity based approaches. Therefore, we must equip young people with the skills to think critically about the goals themselves and about whether they truly address the root causes of poverty, inequality and climate change and to understand how to influence and effect change locally and globally.
At one level all this is fine, and none of it comes as any surprise, but there is something of a fault line in it.
This is evident in the last sentence, and in the 3rd bullet point:
"... we must equip young people with the skills to think critically about the goals ..."
"an education which provides them with the opportunity to develop the essential skills, attitudes and dispositions that will enable and empower them as active citizens contributing to the achievement of the goals ..."
It is, after all, conceivable that such an education might not result in people who want to "contribute to the achievement of the goals ... through their own choices, behaviours and actions".
That's the problem with (and great strength of) education at its best: it's wonderfully open-ended and unpredictable where learners don't always (want to) learn what their teachers teach.