The title of this IAE Blog entry is a widely used phrase that can be traced back to the late 1960s or early 1970s and has an environmental focus. An alternate title for this IAE Blog entry is, “Consider both the big picture and the small picture when making decisions and taking actions.”
We are all born egocentric. Through a combination of nature and nurture, we become more sociocentric. Most children eventually learn that they are not the center of the universe. They learn to take other people and the longer term view into consideration as they make decisions and take actions.
The rate of progress in becoming more sociocentric varies considerably among children, and it certainly depends on the environment in which they are raised. Many adults have trouble understanding the idea of “Think globally, act locally.”
Here is a general example that should interest all of you. Tomorrow (November 2, 2010) is Election Day in the United States. You have undoubtedly read about and listened to candidates talking about big issues such as sustainability, education, the economy, and poverty. You have also heard the same candidates talk about what might be considered to be rather petty local topics, ones often chosen to be inflammatory and attention getting. I view this situation as the candidates being torn between trying to solve the problem of getting elected and at the same time being able to show that they are aware of the “big picture” issues and want to help solve them.
Our informal and formal educational systems have the opportunity to play a significant role in helping students become more sociocentric. Individual teachers are faced by the dual problems of dealing with a relatively fixed local curriculum that is to be taught, and their own insights into much larger problems in our world that their students will need to deal with as they more toward becoming responsible adult citizens.
The latter is a slippery pathway. Suppose that a teacher uses birthrate data from different countries or different ethnic and/or religious groups in a math course where the topic is data analysis and forecasting the future. The birthrate number of 2.1 comes us as a birthrate that eventually leads to a relatively stable population in a country with modern health care and little emigration or immigration. But the topic of birth control might come up in the discussion. Hmm. The teacher or the school principal could receive complaints from some parents or groups.
I found the following article to be informative:
Nolet, V. (2009). Preparing sustainability-literate teachers. Teachers College Record. Retrieved 11/1/2010 from http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=15177.
Quoting from the article:
Background/Context: This article explores sustainability as an emerging paradigm for preservice preparation of teachers. Sustainability education, which is rooted in Deweyan ideas about the fundamental social purposes of schooling, attends to the tensions created by the interconnectedness of environmental, economic, and social equity systems. Sustainability education extends but does not replace environmental education or education for sustainable development, although the latter is considered a problematic idea.
Conclusions: Sustainability education represents a new paradigm for the preparation of teachers. It can help new teachers develop a curricular vision that addresses the fundamental social purposes of education in the context of an uncertain 21st century. Sustainability education also can stimulate a conversation about the role of teacher education in the creation and solution of global environmental and social justice challenges.
What You Can Do
You know that the message sent is not necessarily the message received. You, for example, have “constructed” a personal meaning to my message given above. My overall intent is to provide you with some information and ideas that you will act upon in a manner that leads to improving our informal and formal educational systems.
So, pause for a few seconds and think about the meaning you have constructed from my message and some possible action that you might take based on this meaning. What occurs to you that you, personally, will try out in your quest to improve our educational system?
As a personal example, over the years I have gradually come to understand the idea of sustainability. This idea was certainly not part of my 20 or so years of formal education! I am pleased that it has gradually worked its way into our general media and into our educational system. I work to promote this movement.
Spend a bit of time reflecting on what you have just read. How does the information fit in with your current knowledge, beliefs, and activities? How can you make use of the information to help improve our informal and formal educational systems? Who do you know that might benefit from reading this IAE Blog entry?
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Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications
Education for now and the future. IAE Newsletter - Issue 21, July, 2009.
Mind, Brain, and Education. IAE Newsletter - Issue # 52 October, 2010.