Is education unnatural?

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, Talks and Presentations

This was the title of Stephen Gough's Inaugural Lecture last Thursday in Bath.  He concluded, after an erudite tour d'horizon that it wasn't.  There was, of course, much play around nature / natural, and I noted, I think for the first time, that whilst we have 'unnatural' in English, which gets used a lot, we don't use 'unnature' at all very much (I don't seem to use it at all), even though it's a real word.  'Denature' gets used much more, and 'unnature' seems rather close in meaning, especially as a verb.

Anyway, back to Steve: it was a great occasion; lots of people from both town and gown, with various bits of gown represented; including the young and very old (including my first Head of Department, and Steve's original PGCE supervisor).  The wine was drinkable and the food edible, which were unlooked for bonuses, and the post-lecture conversation flowed.

And there's a new Gough book in the offing.  Can't wait ...

Posted in: Comment, New Publications, Talks and Presentations


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  • As a former geographer I was educated around a concern for the interaction between the natural and the human-produced worlds whose relationships have shifted powerfully towards dominance of the latter in the Anthropocene era and its post-WWII 'Great Acceleration' illustrated by a wealth of 'hockey stick' graphs. Some see the human-made world as the "Machine Civilisation" that dates back to the rise of agriculture. In our lifetimes this manifestation of "unnature" is growing exponentially out of control. It is likely too late to avert the collapse of exponentially growing human-produced systems, but education, be it natural or otherwise, needs urgently to address their exponential and unsustainable impact on nature.