on the ecology of education

It seems that ecology is a hot topic when it comes to education. Recently Kevin Brooks blogged about the links between Marshall McCluhan and Rachel Carson, quoting from Marc Leverette’s Towards an Ecology of Understanding:

[…] we can see that people today do not merely live in a world of the physical. The world is symbolic. We live in a reality filtered by various media; call it what you will: Plato’s cave wall, the world outside and the pictures in our heads, mediated reality, second-hand world, the media environment, the media torrent. As argued above, when a new technology or new symbol system enters a culture, the entire system will change. The examination of this phenomenon is the work of the media ecologist/medium theorist.

It seems more and more we need to think about our environment and our ecology, both in the physical reality, and in our media landscapes. My friend Luke hooked me onto the first and third chapter’s of David Orr’s Earth in Mind, in which he discusses the problems with the way we view education and education needs to change to become more about ecology and the environment. He concludes chapter three:

Ecological education means changing (a) the substance and process of education contained in curriculum, (b) how educational institutions work, (c) the architecture within which education occurs, and most important (d) the purposes of learning. (33)

Luke has a more thorough summary of Orr’s work that you might check out. I found Orr’s stress that “we will need a broader conception of science and a more inclusive rationality that joins empirical knowledge with the same emotions that make us love and sometimes fight” (31), and that we will need to develop and “hold a bigger idea of what it means to be a citizen” (32) very important (all of his points are important, but for someone interested in democracy, citizenship, and oppression, and ways of communicating and thinking, these points were particularly salient).

If you’re interested, Orr’s first chapter can be read here.

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