Three Scenarios for the Future of Education in the Anthropocene

We have entered the Anthropocene — a new era in geological history — a phase of planetary development in which human impacts on the Earth may cause or have caused irreversible damage. We are witness to “the great acceleration” in which geothermal, biological, ecological, and atmospheric changes threaten to bring about irreparable changes in the planetary ecosystem, and by extension, our social and economic systems. Every day brings news of wildfires, drought, floods, conflicts, hurricanes, locusts, extinctions, and the latest, a Coronavirus pandemic, which has managed to shut down many of the global systems we rely on for survival.

I offer here three scenarios for the future of education, each of them tied to various components of a dominant governing ideology. Each Scenario is accompanied by structuring metaphors as well as a dominant “binding quality.” The notion of a binding quality comes to us from an ancient Indic episteme; it is said that consciousness and matter operate in three fundamental modes: sattva (sentient), rajah (mutative), and Tamah (static), collectively known as Gunas in Sanskrit. Understanding the Gunas is a complex philosophical matter; I use them here metaphorically, to describe the predominant energy of each Scenario. I have drawn largely on the comprehensive projections of P.R. Sarkar (1992; 1999) for the vision of the future portrayed in Scenario 3, though it must be said that the various components of this vision are emerging from multifarious directions and under different appellations at the present time.

But chaos theory also teaches us that systems re-organize, often in surprising new ways. A far-from-equilibrium state is a liminal space; liminality is described by one author as “the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed.” (Rohr, 1999). Will we find the courage to allow this dissolution, in order to make way for the world we hope to create? Or will we eagerly seek the status quo, business as usual, or worse, regress into barbarism? I believe that we are in the thick of what may come to be understood as the “great transition” – the death of an old era and the birth of the new. Such a birth is not accomplished painlessly, but with extraordinary labor.

Those of us who share the values of Scenario 3, who hold a Neohumanist vision of human potential and a social vision of a just, ecological and joyful Earth home (PROUT) share a responsibility to be midwives to this birth. Systems demand that we evolve and adapt. The butterfly effect reminds us that small actions can have big impacts. Our small collective actions, mindfully taken, could have important collective impacts, so let us proceed with Scenario 3 as consciously and compassionately as we can.

By Kathleen Kesson

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