The following is by David Orr from a ‘Foreword’ in a new book by David Hicks, Educating for Hope in Troubled Times: Climate Change and the Transition to a Post-carbon Future (London: Institute of Education Press, 2014)
Education is an essential function of civilization. Its essence is simple: to equip the young for the many tasks of preserving and advancing the hard-won gains of humankind in the arts, sciences, and humanities. To the extent that any generation succeeds in this aim, then the next is better able to meet its own needs and anchor itself in some larger mythos and system of values.
Beneath this simple description, however, is endless complexity and controversy. Who is qualified to teach? What should the young be taught? How should they learn? Should they be taught critical thinking or obedience to authority? What is the proper role of classroom learning relative to experiential learning? Should education be aimed for specific skills or breadth? What is the relationship between facts and values, or between information and wisdom? How do various disciplines relate to each other, or do they relate at all? Is education a proper public goal or should it be left to families and civic organizations? Is there a common core of factual knowledge? What does it mean to teach young people to think, or to think about the act of thinking? Is smartness overrated relative, say, to qualities of compassion, sociability, character and manual competence? And so we could go on.
Orr raises here the fundamental questions all of us involved in the education enterprise should be wrestling with as individuals and as members of institutions proclaiming to share the mission of education. He goes on to briefly note the stiff challenges facing us and the necessity of hope, not to be confused with optimism, that is required for education to meet the basic aim he begins with above.
Hicks, offers some answers to Orr’s questions, while using his 30+ years of immersion in educating for a better world to offer how this might be done. While aimed at primarily K-12 educators, much of Hick’s suggestions are, and should be, useful to all of us as we try to learn our way forward.
May you each find a bounty of reasons to feel Thankful this week. Please share as you see fit…