Think Piece. Learning to think differently
If I have correctly interpreted the intentions of the organisers, the concern of the 2007 World Environmental Education Congress is not learning for accommodation to the dominant direction of change in the world today. It is rather a concern for learning to challenge the direction of this change, for learning how to visualise an entirely different trajectory, and for learning the skills and developing the courage needed to pursue such a vision effectively. By the term ‘dominant direction of change’ I refer, of course, to the cumulative and ever-accelerating effects of economic globalisation, social disintegration and ecological destruction that go by the names of ‘development’, ‘modernisation’ and ‘trade liberalisation’. Education in support of this dominant direction of change aims at producing a standardised, technically-competent and pliant individual for global business and a mass of enthusiastic consumers. Most educational scholars today participate in parts of the existing educational system that promotes this agenda, be it school or university. We are all products of this system and we work within it. Hence our thinking is often circumscribed by the assumptions underlying that agenda. Addressing the 2007 World Environmental Education Congress theme ‘Learning in a Changing World’ more thoughtfully (as was the invitation for submission of these ‘Think Pieces’ for the Southern African Journal of Environmental Education), however, signals our intention to question these assumptions. In effect, environmental educators have been questioning the assumptions of mainstream contemporary global culture for the past three decades. We broadly agree among ourselves that environmental education and education for sustainable development are, above all, about ‘learning to think differently about the world and ourselves’. But what exactly does this phrase mean? What is involved in learning to think differently? In my opinion, we have not yet really come to grips with these questions.
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