Sunday, May 29, 2005

Bad education: Are we teaching our young people to be ecological illiterates?

Environmental educator David Orr makes the case in a 1991 commencement address that the typical college graduate knows nothing about ecological principles. Quite the opposite. What that graduate has learned to do is to wreak more havoc on the planet while calling it by pretty names that add up to something named "success." Perhaps most jarring is Orr's assertion that ignorance is not a solvable problem. More knowledge is not more wisdom. And with any knowledge gained--he uses the example of the discovery of chlorofluorocarbons--some is also lost: No one bothered to ask the ultimate destination of these gasses which turned out to be the ozone layer.

He offers instead six principles for a proper education:

1. All education is environmental education.
2. The goal of education is not mastery of subject matter, but of one's person.
3. Knowledge carries with it the responsibility to see that it is well used in the world.
4. We cannot say that we know something until we understand the effects of this knowledge on real people and their communities.
5. The importance of "minute particulars" and the power of examples over words.
6. The way learning occurs is as important as the content of particular courses.
Can any college or university say it is teaching using these principles today?

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1 comment:

Cameron said...

David Orr has written a whole book on this topic. It's called EARTH IN MIND (1993). It's very good --although the summary of his commencement address here says it all in lucid, compact form! He has also written a book called ECOLOGICAL LITERACY (1992) that I haven't read. It's about basic concepts of ecology. . .