Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Educational Reforms That Foster Ecological Intelligence

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Educational Reforms That Foster Ecological Intelligence

Article excerpt

There are powerful forces of resistance that must be acknowledged when introducing educational reforms that foster ecological intelligence. The foremost source of resistance is the paradigm gap that now separates generations. That is, the vast majority of university professors, classroom teachers--and thus the general public that has been educated by them--were socialized to take-for-granted many of the conceptual underpinning that supported the idea that intelligence is the attribute that is the basis of individual autonomy. This included, as mentioned earlier, all the misconceptions that marginalized awareness that the languaging processes carry forward the misconceptions and silences of earlier eras--including the moral values and deep cultural assumptions rooted in the West's anthropocentric traditions of thinking. They were also socialized to think in terms of events, dates, facts, places, characteristics of things and people, what can be measured, and assigned a monetary value--rather than in terms of relationships and mutually supportive or destructive patterns. The dominant mindset reinforced by the educational process also takes-for-granted that change is an inherently progressive process. Indeed, this assumption, which scientists combined with the assumption that the rational process can correct the limitations of the natural world, led to the introduction into the environment of the thousands of synthetic chemicals that are now being discovered to be life-altering toxic substances. And learning to think of the characteristics of distinct entities such as individuals, things, and events rather than relationships and interdependencies further reinforced the habit of valuing abstract thinking over awareness of cultural and environmental contexts. This taken-for-granted conceptual and moral orientation helped to perpetuate the myth of western cultures being more advanced and thus having a messianic responsibility for the development of less advanced cultures.

This legacy of late twentieth century thinking continue s to frame today's political discourse where a large majority of the public are in deep denial that the ecological crisis will require fundamental lifestyle changes. Scientists and politicians who take the crisis seriously assume that it can be solved by introducing more energy efficient and less carbon producing technologies. The small number of faculty in the social sciences and the even smaller number in the humanities who are introducing their students to environmental issues mostly focus on environmental writers such as Holmes Rolston III, Warwick Fox, Arne Naess, J. Baird Callicott, Aldo Leopold, Wendell Berry--and ecofeminists such as Charlene Spretnak, Susan Griffin, Carolyn Merchant, Val Plumwood, and Vandana Shiva. These writers are important as they challenge from different perspectives the dominant myth of a human and patriarchal centered world. Reading them contributes to a change of consciousness, but they do not provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for living lifestyles that are less dependent upon consumerism, or on an individual-centered form of consciousness. Little if any attention is given to discussing with students how the new digital technologies, valued chiefly for their personal convenience, speed, and social networking, perpetuate the same cultural patterns that further marginalize awareness of the ecological crisis.

Other obstacles to introducing educational reforms that foster greater reliance upon ecological intelligence include the deepening culture wars where a mix of religious fundamentalism and years of a fragmented educational process that leaves students graduating with only a surface knowledge of the history of ideas, leads to the current violence-prone political discourse. This discourse, which continually degenerates into making the false distinction between friends and enemies is dominated by an Orwellian mix of political slogans. …

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