Youth Futures: Comparative Research and Transformative Visions

By Jennifer Gidley; Sohail Inayatullah | Go to book overview

Chapter 18
Rural Visions of the Future:
Futures in a Social Science Class

Shane Hart

My interest in exploring future studies stemmed from my own experience as an
Australian exchange student in Denmark when I was sixteen. In the early 1980s
at the height of the Cold War, the village I lived in was halfway from Moscow to
New York. My life was incredible, I was learning so many new things, yet deep
down I felt an overwhelming sadness for the future of the planet. Obsessed with
the nuclear predicament, I, like many people concerned about the future of the
planet, felt paralyzed to act. Despite this, my year ten teacher at Jels Folkeskole,
Flemming Carlsen, managed to turn around my fears through what I now
understand to be activities associated with the field of futures studies.

This case study focuses on the visions of the future of twenty-five students in a small rural Queensland state high school. This case study was born out of a need to make teaching more relevant and empowering for adolescents and to overcome students’ negative attitudes toward the future. Similarly, this approach builds on the work of many environmental educators who have linked the future to objectives of environmental education.1 Indeed, Hicks and Holden have argued that “the future per se is the missing dimension in environmental education.”2

My experience in schools has shown that, while teachers may produce outstanding units of study on global environmental issues, the outcomes often leave students with a passive adoption of a dystopian future. This has been reflected with my own classes with comments such as, “So what? Our world is completely stuffed.” The central thesis of this case study is that asking students to visualize probable, possible, and preferable futures creates the context for hope and action. If students can begin to act for their individual and collective visions of a preferable future, then both students and teachers will have moved from a narrow concept of environmental

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