David Orr’s WHAT IS EDUCATION FOR?
by Karen Eberhardt-Shelton
I read, read, read informative books as my choice for the best way to be informed. What has grabbed me most recently are the books and various writings by the world’s great educator, DAVID ORR, currently on the faculty of Oberlin College in Ohio, and a perpetual partner in the Earth’s Institute of Learning. He’s the most articulate, knowledgeable, and convincing advocate of changing the way people think by radically altering the deformities of the Education System I’ve ever come across, and therefore feel the world owes him a great debt of gratitude for his persistence in offering rescue remedies capable of curing our overall persecution of life on Earth.
First I read ECOLOGICAL LITERACY, an education in its own right, including contributions by Orr. Now I’ve nearly finished EARTH in MIND—On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect, and view it as the bible containing what we most need to know if we’re to survive. Then I looked for material on line, and came up with this splendid piece offered by the Context Institute: What Is Education For? The whole piece can be read online, only about 5 pages long, and offers some of the main points contained in Orr’s endeavours to align us with rational choices and reality.
Here are a few of his main points. “Education is no guarantee of decency, prudence or wisdom. More of the same kinds of education will only compound our problems. . .It is not education that will save us, but education of a certain kind. . .It makes far better sense to reshape ourselves to fit a finite planet than to attempt to reshape the planet to fit our infinite wants. . .The plain fact is that the planet doesn’t need more ‘successful’ people, it desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. . .There is a myth that our culture represents the pinnacle of human achievement, but in fact, we live in a disintegrating culture, and need to participate in the creation of real solutions to real problems. We should set a goal of ecological literacy for all students that includes the basic comprehension of : the laws of thermodynamics, the basic principles of ecology, carrying capacity, energetics, least-cost/end-use analysis, how to live well in a place, limits of technology, appropriate scale, sustainable agriculture and forestry, steady-state economics, and environmental ethics. If Education does not teach us these things, then what is education for?”
Read the whole piece! Read Orr’s books. Focus on education and invent ways to redesign its function and intent. How else are we going to change the way people think? If students go into workshops where they debate and discuss the main points of whatever is problematic, destabilising, destructive, and out of alignment with the way the Earth functions, etc., Orr’s call for real education will develop a steady heartbeat.