What the hell are we teaching our kids?

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty was launched in October 2018. — IPCC

At a meeting on biodiversity and ecosystem services in June 2010, States adopted the Busan outcome document which stated that “an intergovernmental science-policy platform for biodiversity and ecosystem services should be established”. By resolution 65/162 of 20 December 2010, the General Assembly “[took] note of the Busan outcome” and requested the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “to convene a plenary meeting…to determine modalities and institutional arrangements for [IPBES]”. According to the UN Office of Legal Affairs, the General Assembly by taking note of the Busan outcome did not establish IPBES as a United Nations body. — IPBES

Curriculum Purpose

At [School] it is our intent that all learners have access to a high quality, relevant and challenging curriculum. Learners experience a broad and balanced curriculum that promotes intellectual curiosity and prepares them for the future.

Our aim is to deliver a coherent curriculum that inspires and builds on developing learner’s knowledge and skills, helping them to all become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens. The curriculum embraces creativity alongside a mix of more traditional subjects, blended with extensive extra-curricular enrichment opportunities, and places a high value on students’ spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development, living out The [School] Way. — Taken from the website of a local school

I’ll make this brief, but I do intend to develop further the rubric to today’s post.

As little as I know (I’m a father to three children who’ve all gone through England’s education system over the last decade), we’re not teaching our kids the right stuff, and certainly not the sort of material that will equip them to understand let alone deal with the coming apocalypse.

The reason for quoting the above passages from the IPCC and IPBES websites, when set against the Purpose statement of a local Comprehensive School — and I know it may look a bit random and off-piste — is how the hell do you square the 6th mass extinction etc. with a curriculum based on a model and mindset designed to fit the factories of the late 19th century — which is essentially the workplace of today, give or take a bit more transparency but no less pressure to conform?

You don’t. In fact, having spoken to my niece (she’s 17 and hoping to go to University to study medicine), I was left with the clear and very worrying impression that not only was the school not telling her, let alone teaching her, about the Anthropocene — now widely available and disseminated amongst the mainstream press — but it was also singularly failing her to deal with the changes to our world and the impact that that will bring into her life and the many millions of other people who will be, and in some cases already are, so grossly affected? Of course, it would be wrong to use her to illustrate my point but even my own daughter who’s only a year ahead of my niece wasn’t taught anything material to our decaying world; namely, the life and survival skills that might help in the years to come.

You might ask, is this really the job of schools?

My answer: yes. If not them, then who? The parents? What, my generation? I doubt it. We’re up to our neck in a guilt-ridden trap of our own making apropos that our fingerprints are all over the earth-wrecking ethos that’s aided and abetted the neo-liberal elite.

But overall, my biggest concern is that we’re doing nothing (or not enough) to manage the expectations of the next generation who I believe don’t expect, materially at least, to be any worse off than mine. I mean all this talk about a great education being the pathway to a well-paid job, premised I assume on unmitigated and unmediated growth, just looks, well, slightly nuts on a finite planet.

And then there’s our anthropocentric view of the world? How do we materially change that for the better? You know, become more earth-centric and less me-centric? What, we look to our elders or indigenous forebears? Possibly, but we’re not exactly awash with those folk given, amongst many other things, we don’t venerate nor cherish elderhood (read into that ageing), less still would we know where to go to, save a history textbook, for our indigenous forebears.

I accept that I’m not in the teaching trenches, and, in many ways, I’ve no business opining on the subject but then again, I don’t see many people shouting the odds save that they want better performance, improved positioning on a league table, and certainly they don’t want their child/children to fall behind the next person.

Now, I do realise, that the current education system isn’t all one brand of consumerism-focused learning — I’m thinking specifically of the Steiner Schools — but from my purview, it doesn’t feel particularly radical and certainly, even from a story-making perspective, equipping children to find a way to communicate their misgivings, frustration and grief with my and the previous generations. I’m not ignoring the Climate Strikes or Extinction Rebellion but I do wonder how deep and long-lasting will be their effect across England’s education system or indeed further afield.

Anyhow, I’d love to know what you think about the education system and whether it’s (as an example) “…[delivering] a coherent curriculum that inspires and builds on developing learner’s knowledge and skills, helping them to all become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.”

Take care,

Julian

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