By Don Peel, member of Creston Climate Action Society
What if our public education system engaged our children in a democratic learning environment? This would stimulate each student’s innate talents through participating in local community building initiatives, which in turn would build solutions for global issues, such as climate change.
During the span of over 50 years in the field of geoscience, I developed a need to deepen my scope of knowledge to address the increasingly complex issues humanity faces today: climate change, social dysfunction, etc. After 12 years in the role of a policy developer for government, followed by 14 years of post secondary schooling, I concluded that the only way to address these complex issues is through a paradigm shift in education.
Due to the increasing challenges I faced in my career in developing policy for regulating mining operations, I completed a Master’s in Earth Sciences, focused on the concept of “sustainable development”. However, that research offered more questions than answers, leading me to retire from the government position to continue researching the concept through a Master’s in Educational Foundations.
All this experience and education led me to what Albert Einstein warned us of decades ago. He was a critic of education, which still operates essentially to perpetuate a mechanical thinking society. With science shifting from the mechanical/reductionist approach to a more holistic, interdisciplinary perspective, to better understand the interconnection of all systems, I believe education must shift accordingly. Through researching the dynamics of sustainable development my two degrees concluded that how we learn is essential to our future. The reductionist mindset of the present education programming must shift to a systems-thinking approach.
Instead of convincing you to read my theses, I suggest you reflect on Einstein’s wisdom of “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” He also stated, “The development of general ability for independent thinking and judgment should always be placed foremost, not the acquisition of special knowledge”, and “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
Three of my biggest learnings about learning occurred, not through a teacher, but through students. I had the opportunity to visit Grade 3 classes as a geoscientist to teach them about rocks and minerals. Through these visits, the students bombarded me with questions of perspectives that I had never considered as a geologist. This also occurred interacting with graduate students during my pursuit of the education degree. The international students, studying in different faculties, again conveyed new perspectives not covered in my degree program. Homeschooling my granddaughter from Grade 6 to presently Grade 10 opened the floodgates on knowledge development. These interactions with students and youth shifted my perspective of human development, especially related to the need to shift from knowledge conformity (common curriculum) towards the creation of knowledge diversity. In other words, the voice of the youth is essential in knowledge development and community building.
Then I discovered educational models, called the “Moonshot Incubator” (seen on YouTube), and “SelfDesign” (founded in BC), which offer approaches that would address the conclusions of my research and Einstein’s concerns. Learning becomes a two-way dialogue where us “experts” expand our perspectives through the thought processes of less-biased minds, and youth can absorb the knowledge we have learned through experience. Youth become involved in community building processes where a systems-thinking approach interconnects the associated subject matter that the student now enjoy learning from. More importantly, our children will be engaged in a democratic learning (co-designed curriculum development) environment that stimulates each student’s innate talents and passion, through participating in local community building initiatives, along with tackling the climate change and global problems (terminology: “glocal”). These education models stimulate intergenerational, intercultural, and interdisciplinary dialogue to develop system balanced innovations, eliminating the damaging side effects that were developed through Newtonian/reductionist science of the Industrial Age.
With the municipal elections coming up this October, please look at the platforms of the school trustees that are running, to see if they are crusading for meaningful education reform. Vote for a healthy planet and future through an educational transformation!