The Center for EcoJustice Education:
Educational Reform for Diverse, Democratic and Sustainable Communities
The mission of the Center for EcoJustice Education is to help communities revitalize those practices, relationships, policies, and institutions that lead to strong democratic and sustainable communities recognizing the interconnections among biological, cultural and Linguistic Diversity as critical strengths. We do this by promoting Commons-based educational reforms at the community, public school and university levels.
The Reform of Teacher Education and Classroom Practice:
The primary purpose of the Center for EcoJustice Education is to promote reforms at the classroom level in both universities and public schools that contribute to a more ecologically sustainable future. Global warming, changes in the chemistry of the world’s oceans, and the increasing scarcity of potable water and non-contaminated topsoil are among the most challenging and immediate problems that must be taken into consideration in educating the next generation to become environmental and EcoJustice oriented citizens. Our goal is to prepare teachers and university professors who can assume the responsibility for educating citizens capable of strengthening local democratic and sustainable communities.
Beginning from a Cultural and Ecological Analysis:
EcoJustice education is based on an understanding of the unavoidable interrelationship among human cultures and the more than human world. Specifically, it offers a framework for analyzing the impact of the industrial consumer Culture on the ecosystems that humans depend upon. This conceptual framework clarifies the ways our language often carries forward the misconceptions that were constituted before there was an awareness of environmental limits. Language that reproduces patterns of thinking that originated earlier in the culture’s history when there was no awareness of environmental limits continue to frame how we think today—even among environmentalists. The result is that the same destructive values and patterns of thinking that perpetuate the industrial/consumer culture are now being globalized. Educational reforms based on an EcoJustic approach facilitates teachers’ critical understanding of these cultural/lingusitic processes, and enables them to help students recognize in their own thinking as well as in the thinking of others how language often reproduces the misconceptions of the past.
A Focus on Diverse Cultural and Environmental Commons:
EcoJustice educational reforms are also based on a deep understanding of the nature, diversity, and importance of the cultural and environmental commons necessary to sustainable communities. This understanding, specifically of the cultural commons, recognizes that the non-consumer oriented traditions still practiced in local rural and urban communities represent alternatives (indeed, sites of resistance) to the further expansion of the industrial/consumer culture that is overshooting the sustaining capacity of natural systems. It also recognizes that the revitalization of the cultural commons is essential to strengthening the systems of mutual support that are distinctive of different ethnic groups, and to strengthening the traditions of local Democracy.
A Focus on Local Democratic Decision-Making:
In focusing on the community centered alternatives to the loss of civil liberties as well as the loss of knowledge and mutual support systems resulting from economic and ideological Globalization, EcoJustice-based educational reforms will provide students a sense of hope. This will be particularly important as the implications of global warming and other environmental changes become more widely understood. The approach to curriculum reform offered here is also a source of democratic empowerment. Local decision-making must include the aspects of the cultural commons that need to be intergenerationally renewed. Such decision-making requires an understanding of the many ways different aspects of the cultural commons are being enclosed or privatized in order to begin to protect the relationships and practices we need to survive into the future.
The prospects of a sustainable, democratic, and morally just future depends upon learning to recognize the different ways in which the Enclosure of the commons is occurring—from the patenting of gene lines, the further industrialization of food, health care, and the creative arts, to the loss of our traditions of civil liberties.
Specific Tasks of the Center:
The Center for EcoJustice Educaiton educates teachers and university faculty about the nature and importance of the cultural and environmental commons as alternatives to dependence upon the industrial/consumer culture now overshooting the sustaining capacity of nature systems. Toward this goal, the Center
- Works with diverse local communities currently engaged in revitalizing their environmental and cultural commons to study, support and develop educational processes and programming that support democracy and sustainability.
- Produces guidelines on how to introduce an understanding of the cultural and environmental commons into the curriculum from the early grades through graduate level courses.
- Conducts workshops for professors of education enabling them to present future teachers with an understanding of diversity as a complex interaction among humans and the more than human world, and to examine underlying cultural assumptions leading to the degradation of both human communities and the natural environment. We introduce the nature and diversity of the cultural commons, the relationships between revitalizing the local cultural commons and slowing the rate of environmental degradation, and a knowledge of how to help students recognize the different forms of enclosure while at the same time maintaining the support of the community.
- Develops and disseminates curriculum materials that can be used at different grade levels. The curriculum guides will help teachers recognize aspects of the cultural commons that have not been made explicit in their own education, as well as provide the missing conceptual background that is needed for helping students understand the historical, political, and economic forces behind the different forms of enclosure taking place in their local cultural commons—and well as in the commons of other cultures.
- Works with state and local teacher organizations, as well as community groups in examining the nature and importance of EcoJustice-based educational reforms, as well as in understanding how many current approaches to educational reform promote forms of Individualism relied upon by the further expansion of the industrial/consumer culture.