Education for life

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Ms Louise Morand of L’Assomption, Québec, calls on all educators to step out of the straight jacket of the usual formulas for a successful education and take note of the threat of extinction weighing on our civilization and our species. 

Education for life

It is not insignificant that Denis Villeneuve’s new film, entitled Arrival, opens with a scene on a university campus where the few students present for their courses ask their teacher to tune in to an information network. Faced with the threat that humanity suddenly discovers, symbolized in the film by the extra-terrestrial presence, all attention and all knowledge are henceforth mobilized to save life and human civilization.

This remarkable science fiction work from the Québecois filmmaker should reach us because it touches in each of us what we can no longer ignore: the advent of the Anthropocene marked by a destabilization of climate and ecosystems, the collapse of fossil fuel based economies and the increase of social conflict as the vital resources of the planet are failing. Mountains of scientific fact shows that the pursuit of the usual economic status quo, associated with extractivism, consumption, growth and the use of fossil energy, leads directly to the destruction of organized humanity and possibly the end of life on Earth as we know it. And that over the course of the next few generations. In certain regions of the globe, the rise of chaos is well under way.

Faced with this imminent menace, while we still have access to ressources which would permit us to affect a transition and a rapid lowering of energy consumption as well as modify the way we feed, house and transport ourselves to avoid the worst, how is it that the education system continues to ignore the fundamental rôle it can play in organizing the change of culture that we must accomplish?

The current school programs of the Québec system are like a varied diet bringing the nutrition required for the social integration of youth. With the importance given to the development of competence and learning strategies, the researchers in education make sure that this nutrition is well absorbed. Exams are the proof. All this functions well while the young people can access a job and a life situation permitting them to bloom. The trouble is, their current perspective is completely different. The future of the young is no longer assured.

If Denis Villeneuve’s film can inspire us, it is by the reflection he presents on language. Beyond the rigidity of the discussion (by media, politics and science), we must find a means of communication which takes into account the reality of our common origin and what we will become as living beings on this planet. If we wish to succeed in giving our youth a viable future, we must take into account the reality in which our species evolved. Everything remains to be done to institute at schools and in our communities new ways of seeing and acting to avoid the wall for which we are heedlessly headed. For this, it is first necessary to leave our comfort zone and face “the beast”, that is, conquer the fear of the unknown and change.

Louise Morand, Ph.D in Education

January 19th, 2017