As a child, I remember thinking adults reached a magical age when they became “grown-ups” and were therefore done growing. Now that I have reached that age myself, I realize that we’re not done—we have the option of continuing to develop throughout life.
We need people who choose to continue learning. The problems we’re facing are at a scale we have never faced before, and they won’t be solved with old-school thinking. Our ecological life-support systems are in crisis, with extinctions, water scarcities, and climate disruption threatening the future of civilization. We’re spending trillions to prop up an economic system we know to be unsustainable, unjust, and unfulfilling. And warfare continues to eat away at the soul of our nation, inflicting trauma on millions around the world, and draining resources we desperately need to invest in the transition to a green and equitable economy.
We need people who are awake, engaged, lifelong learners—people who are culturally and ecologically literate, who can build healthy, loving relationships, and who can ask tough questions and critically evaluate the responses.
How can we learn these capacities and teach them to generations to come?
Instead of obeying authorities, taking tests, and jumping through hoops, we need to learn to think for ourselves, to build sustainable communities, and to protect our ecological diversity. We need to learn how to make a living in a world facing climate change and peak oil. And we need to learn the art of democracy and movement building so that we can counter the power of the corporate elites and put our government to work setting policies for a better world.
The Fall 2009 issue of YES! explores how to develop these capacities and foster them in the next generation.
- Former New York Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto takes an irreverent look at our schools showing how they can either develop or undercut our ability to assert control over our own lives.
- Educators Ron Miller and David Sobel show how we can learn to recognize and protect our place on this Earth, including the communities and natural systems that sustain life.
- Julia Putnam tells the story of her education in Detroit, which took off when she got involved in rebuilding her community, learning from mentors like movement elder Grace Lee Boggs.
- Author and educator Parker Palmer shows how we can learn to stay centered in our own values and ethics, even when workplace expectations push us to violate what we know is right.
What else does it mean to get educated in these chaotic times?
It means learning how to heal and nurture ourselves and others, especially those who have been traumatized by war and other forms of violence. It means acquiring the job skills that can sustain us and our loved ones while serving the larger human community. It means questioning authority, distinguishing between what’s important and what’s background noise, and learning how to access the vast knowledge commons that is our birthright.
Our educational institutions can help us with some of these skills. But they won’t get us where we need to go. This issue of YES! highlights those who are creating the educational models we need to survive, to thrive, and to help build a better world.