I wrote this post in 2014, but come back to it often. See edits and additions below the main body. We tread a delicate line between hope and despair; between student action for change and not overwhelming our young learners with the pressure of a future that was shaped by others.
We’ve wrecked the world.Inequality, environmental destruction, outbreaks of disease, terrorism and economic collapse. We are (we think) aware of the problems we face – and the message can be one of hopelessness. Do we risk passing on global ignorance to our students – a connected, compassionate generation who are plugged into a media-rich stream of (mis)information?
As we try to bring global issues into the classroom, there is a danger that we promote a message that all is lost; a message reinforced by media reporting on the same issues and clouded by prejudices and emotion? This is something I worry about in international curriculum design and often think about how a globally-informed curriculum can also be a hopeful one.
We can fix it.
We can choose to educate for hope. The solutions to many of problems are out there, or on the cusp of being realised – the technological age is well established and we are reaping the rewards. Now it’s time to recognise the importance of the psychological age. George Monbiot writes that if we terrify people, they will focus on saving themselves, not others; a feeling of hopelessness that accompanies awareness of global issues is unhelpful. Yet if the focus is on the concrete and the hopeful – the actions that we can take to make a difference – then we might affect a more positive outcome.
I would love to see an international school curriculum that produces graduates who are globally literate (as in Hans Rosling’s Ignorance Project) and who are hopeful, compassionate and active ‘fixers of the future‘. With the IB Programmes we have the framework – the ‘heavy lifting’ of the elements of an excellent education has been done for us. As schools we can choose to use that framework to build an inspirational experience.
Edit 2018: Rosling’s posthumously-published book (Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think) is out. Here is an excerpt in the Guardian.
We can start with simple actions
- Design units that connect to Global Contexts in authentic ways.
- Evaluate our own understandings of the global issues we’re addressing before we teach them.
- How can these be connected to (or driven by) the Sustainable Development Goals?
- Use student research and examples to highlight both the reality of of the situation and the actions that can (and are) being taken to make a positive difference.
- MYP Sciences, Criterion D – I’m looking at you. And you too while we’re at it, and Design Cycle.
- Discuss how these actions and our knowledge can be connected to meaningful action.
We want to create a realistic hope – not ignorance, boredom or hopelessness.
We can do it.
Update Dec 2017: Blue Planet’s Back!
“We want children to love nature so that they protect it in the future.”
(Patagonia “Family Business” Raising the Next Generation)
Read this post from June 2017 on the Patagonia blog, about the Great Pacific Child Development Center and their studies and efforts to connect kids to nature. Similarly, we can reflect on the kinds of experiences and media that promote positive feelings towards environmental stewardship in our kids. Shows like Blue Planet II and Planet Earth stimulate fantastic conversations in our house and inspire our kids whilst also informing them of the human impacts. They’re not afraid, but they care.
Update April 2018: International Contexts
“We do not see ecological grief as submitting to despair, and neither does it justify ‘switching off’ from the many environmental problems that confront humanity. Instead, we find great hope in the responses ecological grief is likely to invoke.”
Read this excellent post from the TheConversation/TerraMar Project, “Ecological Grief: Understanding Hope & Despair in the Anthropocene.” As you read the piece, think about the psychological impacts of environmental change. What can we do about them? How might you use “Why Them? Why There? Why Then?” in connection with the article to develop IMaGE?
Update January 2019: #Factfulness & Global Ignorance
Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know how much I love Factfulness by Hans Rosling & family. I have a growing LibGuide full of connected resources for the global ignorance project and data-informed inquiry here. I presented it recently at ACAMIS Tech 2018, and will run an extended session at Learning 2.019 in Nanjing in November.
Update March 2019: Global Thinking Toolkit
The Global Thinking Routines from Veronica Boix-Mansilla’s (@VBoixMansilla) Global Thinking Bundle, are a set of project zero resources that can help focus classroom action and inquiry. Click here to read the full Global Thinking guide, and here for her piece in Educational Leadership Magazine on How To Be A Global Thinker. I also love her IB blog post on “bringing international mindedness to life” with portraiture.
Update April 2019: #OurPlanet!
Attenborough & team are back… on Netflix. The new series, Our Planet, does a great job of teaching for hope, not despair, without white-washing the issues. After George Monbiot’s scathing criticism of the more recent series, Our Planet shares the beauty, highlights the issues and show real and inspiring examples of how human actions are already making a positive impact. They have a great website of resources & clips here.
- George Monbiot: Saving the world should be based on promise, not fear.
- Business Insider: Teens are more compassionate after the recession
- Common Cause for Nature: Inspiring positive change in sustainability education
- Me: How NOT to be ignorant about the world. Should a fact-based world view be the core of an international curriculum?
- Patagonia: How can we inspires children to be stewards of the planet?