Will Education Systems Wake Up to the Civilisational Challenge?

In early 2008 I was invited to present a paper at the Australian Council for Educational Administration (ACEA) conference in Brisbane. I thought carefully before accepting. My PhD (Lancaster 1982) had been about the need for futures perspectives in education. Since then I’d travelled the world, written books, given countless presentations and workshops. In most cases the responses were positive – teachers, parents, students and many others hardly needed convincing that there were challenges ahead to which educators had to respond (as well as visions and dreams to possibly fulfil). Yet the longer I worked the more I came up against a fundamental problem – education systems are fundamentally biased against taking the future seriously. They are simply not prepared to accommodate anything more than the most trite and superficial treatments of futures. As I discovered in Queensland, structural innovations can get a long way down the track but they fail because they do not obtain consent at the highest levels and are then either dropped or marginalised.

So what was I to do? Was it worth making yet another effort to help educators ‘wake up’ to the changed world that is rapidly approaching? As human impacts on the global system reach crisis levels and global warming is finally being recognised for what it is, were people likely to be more receptive? I thought it worth a try. The link below will take you to the paper I wrote. It is short, to the point and tries to make clear that we are, as a species, finally ‘out of time.’ We need to ‘wake up’ to the global crisis that we ourselves have created and deal with it honestly and openly. School systems are, of course, only one part of the social fabric, but I continue to believe that unless they play their part in equipping students for the now inevitable transitions before us, they are failing to fulfil their statutory obligations as well as their moral ones.

The paper is called ‘Beyond ‘the future of…’ Responding to the civilisational challenge,’ and it was published in the ACER Conference Papers, ACER, Melbourne, 2008, pp 14-18.