Youth

The only Priority in Education
for Sustainable Development

Intro


The OPEDUCA Concept more profoundly positions youth as the future itself, not just because the road ahead is generation spanning but given the conviction individual development underlies a more sustainable society. As we obviously became disassociated from generations past and the earth who’s air we breathe, water we drink and fruits we feed from, we can only grant the future itself, as it is in our midst already, the capacity to look forward with untainted eyes and resilience to make it theirs. Our youth is the only “We” we have. From early childhood on we can hold it in our hands, lift it up, look it in the eye and support - having the future literally in our hands and in our midst (J. Eussen, 2004, 2010).

Following the conviction the individual person is central to sustainable development and seeing humanity as the constitution of the individuals it comprises, it is the individual from who (un)sustainable development springs. Regarding learning as a natural contribute of the individual, I approach ESD first (and per definition) as individual learning for sustainable development. Therefor each human, beginning at youngest age when learning is still natural to life, should have unlimited opportunity to look at life as it is and unfolds, learn anytime, anyplace, with anybody and through any device about those themes that will most prominently define its own and our common future. 

The Future is not Adult

Since the future is beyond the horizon of those ruling the present, it can eventually not be governed by powers presently in place. 
However good intentions of present adults are, their thinking, disposition, interests and considerations are not of the future. Our capacity to govern the future is limited as we are not able to radically cure, either in ourselves or others, that narrowness of soul which makes us prefer the present to the remote (Hume, 1739). This means we should no longer see youth merely as subjects and actors in the present but as owners and factors of the future. As it was already written: “I speak of the life of a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children; who has undertaken to cherish it and do it no damage, not because he is duty-bound, but because he loves the world and loves his children” (W. Berry & Meatyard, 1991). Thereto we should take a positive vision of the future (Eckersley, 2002) and distance from negative images. Instead of problematic visions drenched in despair, ESD can be a beacon of hope and means of progress youngsters deserve.

Youth no longer has 'a' Future

Youth can unite and bind us as it presents our most magnificent common value.
The saying ‘Youth has the future’ is no longer valid given what previous and present generations have caused and forsaken to do; Youth no longer has the future, they are.
Instead of reasoning from uncertainly, the future can be looked in the eye and reasoned with, not about, comprising future society in its own design.
Youngsters can be regarded initially good, have no reason to not live sustainable lives and might even be equipped by nature with the qualities needed thereto, respecting children as ‘gentle’ and indispensable to involve if we seek long-term societal changes.

The Future cannot be Taught

Students cannot be ‘taught’ a worldview from out an academic ivory tower, but they can be guided to develop one in their daily educational practice, a mission however which takes people with personality and understanding wrought in life’s practical reality, tried and assessed in the world themselves. Such qualities cannot be arranged by building further structures and the reshuffling of roles in institutions, not commanded by research strange to life itself.

We can only Support

“We're never going to have respectful and reverential relationships with the planet and sensible policies about what we put in the air, the soil, the water, if young children do not begin learning about these things in their houses, backyards, streets and schools. We need to have human beings who are oriented that way from their earliest memories”
(E. Boulding, 2000).

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Awakening Youngsters'
Transformative Potential

For a sustainable development it is strategic to awaken young minds, to challenge and motivate them to grow into a critical individual learner in search of meaning and resolve. ESD seen as from a pro-active rather than reactive nature, providing the (young) learner with a strong foothold to stand on, roots to feed from and wings to fly. The challenge to create a prosperous future invites to think, think again, even to dream, fantasize, re-consider, to create lines of thought towards it. We keep ESD away from the organisational or system-perspective, seeing an individuals’ understanding, decisions and actions in the congruent logic presented as the Dimensions of ESD.
The individual learning is furthermore seen as a continuous articulation of the ‘Why?’, the inquiry most natural to the younger minds, to constantly generate new and evolving understanding of what is, thus taking a continuously critical disposition.
We ask the question because we are human and we fail to be fully human whenever we fail to ask it (Ford, 2007). A critical understanding of the “Ist” underlies a growing insight and understanding of the “Soll” and the change towards it.
While scholars in the ESD-discourse propose education should prepare students for the unknown rather than learning what we already know (for example Perkins, 2014), such appears based on the presumption that, given the rate of knowledge creation in this ‘knowledge economy’, what is learned tends to be outdated rather fast. I principally opposed to that conviction since the past and present can be regarded to be construed of facts and rest on values with longer lasting quality. Although for example globalisation calls for more understanding of cultures, trade-mechanisms,
a better mastering of (more) languages and the interdependence of value-exchanges, there is a vast landscape of resistant knowledge to start out from. The appearance and behaviour of most phenomena did and will not change overnight. Youth is still in the position to first gain thorough understanding of what is, develop an informed opinion how it came about to then engage in the exploration and development of the future. An over-accentuation of continuous change, the relativity of knowledge and uncertainty can put that learning at risk and is not to be seen as a motivating factor. I reason in line with the Socratic view, expecting that ‘learning from the roots’ will eventually contribute to learners’ autonomous capacity (Kumaravadivelu, 2003).
As a later commentor on the OPEDUCA-concept worded it: “… to imagine a better world while standing deep in the science of the world they live in” (Smith, 2020).    

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