David Orr and Erik Assadourian discussed the challenge to reform education to meet the demands of failing natural systems on our planet and the prospect of 9.6 B people by 2050. See Security and Sustainability Forum and scroll down.
How do we prepare our children today for the awesome challenges that lie ahead?
Eric Assadourian noted we need two kinds of education, simultaneously: education for sustainability and education for resilience.
In their new book, EarthED, these two leaders in environmental education address six major areas that form the backbone of educational reform:
- EARTH DEPENDENCE – we are utterly dependent on earth’s natural systems to live; to be healthy, and to make a living, and for safety and inspiration. Most children today are disconnected from the planet under their feet, more than any other generation. Basic earth literacy must be taught.
- INTERDEPENDENCE – We are interdependent on each other and the earth. Social/emotional intelligence and moral education must address how we live together and the values we must share to assure life will go forward on Earth.
- CREATIVITY – Play is fundamental to developing and cultivating our imaginations; arts and humanities, dance and music – all develop higher cortical function (long term planning, critical thinking, novel ideas). In a problematic future with unpredictable events, the ability to create novel solutions will be a hallmark of generations growing into adulthood today.
- DEEP LEARNING – Learning how to learn, learning how to apply ideas that work in one area to another — to see connections, patterns; to think critically about tools such as digital communication and platforms. New Americans should ask: What kind of world do we want to build? We can be manipulated by digital platforms like Facebook; how do we account for and protect ourselves from intrusion? How can we think and act clearly? Learning to use systems thinking will be fundamental to a sustainable future for our coming generations.
- LIFE SKILLS – New Americans should be skilled in home economics by learning how to grow, harvest and store, and prepare good food. All should know about renewable energy, conservation of materials by reusing them and developing new materials that are more mobile – to be able to relocate communities with changing conditions in the environment such as flooding. New students learn how to create beauty around them while being conservative in their use of resources. Innovation is critical and related to working together to innovate and create new ways of living.
- EARTH-CENTRIC LEADERSHIP – Americans need to see the connections between our democratic life and the protection of the environment. Our forefathers recognized the fundamental requirement of education and maintenance of a democracy:
There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe. …. John Adams Letter to Thomas Jefferson (15 July 1817) .
The fact that the political apparatus for environmental protection has been dismantled in the last few months of the new administration should be of great concern to all of us. Decades of work to create the Environmental Protection Agency and the protections for human and wild life (Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, etc.) have all been cleaved to the ground. This requires the coming generations to determine how our democracy can create anew (reframe) the laws that represent us and protect life and limb.