A grenade in the Curriculum Journal

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

As I noted recently, I have a forthcoming paper in the Curriculum Journal, in a special issue on education and sustainability in the UK.   So has Ken Webster, I'm pleased to say.  His contribution is a poke in the ribs for those who think that the priority should be to infiltrate ESD into current educational practice.  Here's a taste:

ESD mistook the superficial for the profound in a way which reflects the persistence of a linear and reductionist worldview – and its associated myths – operating ‘below the radar’ of everyday consciousness.  By this is meant that so infrequently is the extended context and time horizon considered – the systems and its iteration over time – that this speaks to habits of mind which are products of a worldview which is linear (looks to immediate causes and effects) and reductionist (looks at the parts in isolation and assumes the whole is merely the aggregation of such parts.  Ironic really, that the call in ESD is often for rethinking values when this clearly does not often extend to the assumptions woven into the prevailing worldview, hence the characterisation of ESD aspirations as merely ‘business as usual but greener and fairer’. ...

The roots of many of the fallacies and misconceptions, are found in a failure of educators to think in systems, not least because they themselves have been educated in narrow subject disciplines derived from the dominant worldviews of the Enlightenment era.  As a result the failure principally means a failure to see the interconnections, and map the consequences; a failure to see the ‘big picture’ and emergent properties (the whole is more and different than the sum of the parts); to have, very often, an overrated sense that the situation can or could be managed.  Never was an image so poorly thought through than the one where the earth is placed in human hands.  We are not in charge, not least because it is impossible in systems terms.  It’s just bad science to think so.  There is also an exaggerated focus on the individual as the locus of change and the naïve notion that the system is very open to change rather than being heavily path dependent.  Some of these misconceptions ... have become so much a part of so much ESD in practice but are rarely challenged ... .

Good stuff.  The full set of papers is:

Sustainable development, environmental education, and the significance of being in place

Michael Bonnett

Eco-schooling and sustainability citizenship: exploring issues raised by corporate sponsorship

John Huckle

Developing the sustainable school: thinking the issues through

Bill Scott

Uncharted waters: voyages for Education for Sustainable Development in the higher education curriculum

Alexandra Ryan & Daniella Tilbury

Exploring and developing student understandings of sustainable development

Nicola Walshe

Missing the wood for the trees, systemic defects and the future of education for sustainable development

Ken Webster

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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