Schools as Agents of Change for Education for Sustainable Consumption Presented at the May 2011 UN Commission on Sustainable Development Conference (CSD-19) United Nations, New York Sue L. T. McGregor PhD Professor Canada http://www.consultmcgregor.com Invitation from PERL This CSD-19 Side Event was organized by PERL, the Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living http://www.perlprojects.org/ Why Sustainability? Sustainability is from two words: sustain and able Sustain is Latin sustinere, “to hold up or support from below” Able is Old French ableté, "expert at handling something” Sustainability refers to people becoming experts at holding up or providing support for something from below. What needs to be sustained? ALL LIFE... Earth and our ecosystem Non-human species All human generations (the young, adults and our elders) Those living elsewhere Those not yet born (the Future) Education for Sustainable Living Education for sustainable living (all life) depends heavily upon people being taught how to consume in a sustainable matter, in such a way that their patterns of action in the marketplace scaffold and support All LIFE, now and in the future. This life support requires.... Education FOR Sustainable Consumption Why Sustainable Consumption? Because the way we consume today is harming, some say destroying, the planet, other species and current and future generations. The way we consume is making it very hard to provide life support for the above because current consumption patterns are undermining the support structures. Without this support, everyone and everything becomes weakened and vulnerable, exposed to profound risks, even extinction for some species and geographic locales. Photo: Ben Jones Discovery News Why EDUCATION FOR sustainable consumption (ESC)? Just because everyone “is a consumer” does not mean they know how to consume in a sustainable way (ensuring support for life). They need to be educated about how their behaviour affects others and themselves. General consumer education tends to focus on how to help people make decisions in the marketplace so their selfinterest is served from buying and owning things. If this is done without a fellow-citizen, fellow-species, relationship-with-earth and the future perspective, everything gets trampled and flattened. A special consumer education is warranted – ESC. How is ESC different from regular consumer education? Regular Focused on economic and financial growth and security Consumer is major economic agent Values of market pervade society; people serve the market Concerned with efficiency, scarcity and competition Focused on consumer interest and rights ESC Focused on human and social development, potentials, progression and security as well as economics People are consumers and citizens Economy and market serve the people and society Concerned with effectiveness and efficacy Focused on mutual interests and on citizen/human responsibilities to others and the planet while consuming What values does education for sustainable consumption instil (in addition to ESC Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge ‘ASK’) Consumption patterns that would sustain earth and all species (provide visible and invisible life support over many generations, ensuring viability and vitality) require a special kind of behaviour in the marketplace; indeed, even before entering the marketplace. This behaviour privileges a collection of KEY values, key because they unlock, and keep unlocked, doorways and pathways to sustainability... Key values for sustainable living: Respect and love Diversity Peace and freedom Tolerance, empathy and compassion Solidarity Justice Community and life Moderation and sufficiency Connections and interrelationships Intergenerational learning Self-reflection and selfawareness Integrity Trust(worthiness) Fellowship Equity and equality Responsibility and accountability Ethics and morality Public discourse for the common good Stewardship Alternatives Human creativity Critical awareness Change agency Respect chaos and tension Compare this to the conventional value set for a market economy: Competition Win-lose Efficiency Scarcity (ration scarce economic resources to their most efficient use) Profit maximization Equilibrium Wealth accumulation Growth and expansion Management and control Business cycles Productivity Progress (technological and economic) Self-interest (nation's wealth is greatest when its citizens pursue their own selfinterest by consuming) Individualism Rationale “man” (choices) Certainty, order and control Education is a Catalyst Education is a powerful catalyst for a more sustainable life and a just, secure society rich with potential and possibilities. Catalyst is Greek katalyein, to loosen things up Catalysts speed up the rate of an important event, help make it happen. Catalysts cause fundamental change; this CSD-19 Side Event is about schools as agents of change for sustainable lifestyles through education for sustainable consumption Schools and Leadership for ESC Schools can be profound agents of social change. Leadership around schools (government agencies, administrators, teachers, students, families and communities) can use several fundamental tools: Make constitutional changes Make ESC a national priority, placing it on the policy agenda at the highest level, then implementing it a program/departmental levels Ensure coordinated, systematic action from the various ministries, government agencies and schools Initiate state/province-wide curricular innovations and development (including leading-edge ESC pedagogy) Collaborate with key stakeholders Run public ESC campaigns What does ESC “look like”? What is the best ESC pedagogy to ensure consumer behaviour patterns that respect and reflect sustainability (support life)? Overarching purpose of ESC: bridge the gaps between school and real life by educating learners to be the next generation of global citizens who are responsible for each other and the earth Key elements of ESC pedagogy (Greek paidagogia, “to lead a child, education, attendance on children” Conventional pedagogy: Sage-on-the -stage, teacher as expert, student as empty vessel, waiting to be filled up with teacher-given knowledge ESC-Pedagogy is student-centered and life-centered Teacher is the guide-on-the-stage, helping students direct their own learning: Approaches to teaching ESC in school Re-learning, even un-learning Active learning principles and strategies Inquiry-based learning (driven by the students) Concept maps and mind maps Project-based learning (experiential learning) Case studies (others and make up their own) Debates and discussion (argue and justify one’s position) Dialogue and study circles (reach consensus) Cooperative and collaborative learning principles Thematic teaching (includes controversial issues) Approaches to teaching ESC in school, cont Field trips into the community (community is a classroom ripe with locally relevant learning) Bring the community into the school Service learning continuum Art, drama, music, games, literature, sports Future workshops and scenario building Showcasing successes and best practices Celebrations (instead of rewards) ‘Looking for Likely Alternatives’ learning tool (LOLA), to counter the TINA syndrome (there is no alternative) Curriculum architects can choose from several strategies as they design ESC: Stand-alone course Mainstreamed into existing courses (infused) Cross-cutting, interrelated themes (integration) Stand alone ESC A separate curriculum would be developed and the ESC course would become part of the selection of courses from which students choose to complete their graduation requirements. DOWNSIDES: May not be a mandatory course, meaning not everyone benefits from the course content and learning activities If taken only once, there is no chance for ongoing orientation to consuming for sustainability Infused ESC An infused curricular approach to ESC strives to instil ideas in students by gradually but firmly establishing ideas or attitudes about sustainable living and consumption in their minds (like steeping a cup of tea). Once infused, it is very difficult to separate or disconnect. Major tool is thematic teaching, infusing ESC themes into courses, projects, afterschool activities, school clubs etc. Downsides a risk that the agreed-to thematic content would be woven into courses only at the discretion of individual instructors. the degree to which individual instructors embrace and internalize the ESC course content, themes and pedagogy will affect their willingness and ability to infuse it into their teachings Integrated ESC curricula An integrated approach (to make whole) purposively makes connections across all subjects. It creates opportunities for all students to learn together until they begin to see patterns emerge and connections are born about what it means to be a “consumer for sustainable living.” Teachers would co-create and co-deliver the aforementioned ESC pedagogy. By incorporating ideas about sustainable consumption across the entire learning experience, an integrated approach to ESC unites learning “into a whole.” In the case of ESC for sustainable living, an entire new person emerges at the end - a global consumer citizen. Challenges to this dream Pervasiveness of the consumer culture in everyday life – incredibly hard nut to crack Natural resistance to change (viewing latter as a threat instead of an opportunity) Lack of political will (on many levels) to make ESC happen Political will but no political wherewithal (power, influence, leverage, resources) Schools and communities/families not seen as partners in students’ learning Teachers not adequately trained in ESC pedagogy School culture not predisposed to ESC Cannot afford to wallow in the negativity The ESC FUTURE Appreciating that there are deep challenges to sustainable, responsible living in a consumer society, today’s Side Event was purposely designed to showcase best practices – this can work. It can happen. Schools can be powerful agents of change for a sustainable future, deeply shaped by consumers’ behaviour and especiallydesigned consumer education that respects responsible living.