Must read piece by Zoe Weil, who is more and more becoming a big influence in my thinking. It’s not that I haven’t had these same concerns, but she is articulating them in a way that I find really compelling. We must begin thinking about schools and schooling differently because, as she suggests here, verbal, mathematical and scientific literacy to compete in the economy is no longer enough.
Given the world we live in today – which is approaching 7 billion people (1 billion of whom are undernourished and lacking ready access to clean water); where species are becoming extinct at alarming rates dramatically reducing biodiversity; where over 25 million live enslaved; in which looming peak oil threatens to make the current recession seem like boom times; where climate change is leading to rising seas, desertification, flooding, environmental refugees, crop failures, and more; where nuclear weapons still proliferate; and where a trillion animals are brutalized every year for food in unsustainable and inhumane ways – it’s critical to seriously and carefully consider what knowledge and skills youth most need to acquire for their, and all our futures. In the face of the challenges listed above (and many others left out of this list), is literacy and the capacity to compete in the global economy a big enough goal for schooling?
At the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), we don’t think so, and the first question that we address in our teacher training programs is, “What is schooling for?” This is where we must begin before developing any reforms, curricula, schools, lesson plans, initiatives, teaching strategies, or policies. At IHE we believe that we need to graduate a generation with the knowledge, tools, and motivation to become conscientious choicemakers and engaged changemakers for a healthy, just, and peaceful world for all, but whether one adopts our goal or another, this core question is essential, yet it rarely comes up in discussions about school reform. By largely accepting without debate the assumption that the goal of schooling is verbal, mathematical and scientific literacy to compete in the global economy, we have failed in the primary task for addressing any reform: to determine the most pressing, appropriate, and meaningful goal.