Education's Ecology


Schools dominate our systems of education. But schools are not an essential system. In the absence of schools, education would still go on but it would be very different from what we now, almost universally conceive to be "education." It is imperative that society take a step back from schools and schooling to explore alternatives and open new spaces in education for its evolution to better align with the enormous changes that are rapidly changing society. This is not to say that any of these changes are well defined or that there is a directions that is about to reach some consensus.  The reality is that schools are ill-equipped to make the essential adjustments that are both needed and imperative. Needs accommodate the ways that education must play a role in ameliorating the deficits that society has acquired through decades or centuries of pursuits that have led us to where we now are. Not the least of these include economic frameworks that exacerbate inequality. Imperatives are survival values. Human impacts on the ecology of the planet we depend on for continuation of life are many; so many that unless and until human society is able to adopt global stewardship and recognize the principles of limited growth that assure sustainability, the planetary ecosystem is likely to become uninhabitable for humans. Such change will make demands on education that have never in history been as intense as they have become and will expand across the next decades.

It is abundantly clear that human impacts on Earth will reduce and eventually eliminate the systems needed for continuation of human life itself. When the human species is gone, or reduced to being irrelevant, many of the other life forms will flourish. What is ignoble is that our species, with attributes unmatched among animals, will be as forgotten and irrelevant as trilobites and dinosaurs would be if humans had not evolved. There will be no species to read the artifacts, the books, of human life. The poets from Shakespeare on will never have existed unless there is a highly unlikely visit from another distant planet of life forms that express an intelligence coupled with motivation and curiosity that will seek to understand our brief human existence and how in a few hundreds of years we made our own existence impossible. Will an intelligent alien from another solar system or galaxy ever know the meaning of a tear? 

Schools, which herd groups together for "instruction" have failed and our collective futures depend upon our creation of a better way for education.

This will happen where opportunities for innovation and experimentation are able to happen in an open society that is free to make collective changes and discover what is better that what we have had and what has failed.  The evidence of failure is everywhere we care to look into the dark cave of what we do as a society, a so-called civilization that is destroying it self by inattention to preserving the conditions that sustain life.

First among these conditions is the dogma that human life is sacred. Homo sapiens has over populated the planet, exceeding the carrying capacity by at least double. Even 3-4 billion humans may not be sustainable if there is continued growth in the use of mined materials and energy from fossil fuels. Continued degradation of the earth's crust and atmosphere is not sustainable.

The answer rises every morning. Solar energy has powered life on Earth for over 2.5 billion years. Extraction of energy from fossil fuels has occurred for just a few hundred years; maybe as little as 300 years.

It is time for schools to revisit literature about environmental sustainability; literature recognizing environmental issues  that has been rticulated quite clearly for 50-60 years. With this base for understanding we can and must begin to integrate sustainable principles into the whole of life itself. The curriculia of schools is no match for our deepest planetary needs—our planetary imperative. If STEM disciplines are not fully integrated with these principles, our human population will continue to drift toward oblivion.

Stay tuned ... there is much more to come regarding schools and education's ecosystem.

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Last revised 2 December 2022