We all know the importance of public education, but is it doing enough to push the changes that society desperately needs?
It’s pretty clear that we’re undergoing an ecological crisis. It is a crisis formed from a combination of factors, such as greed, urban expansion, animal agriculture, and industrial pollution.
Perhaps the biggest factor is simply a lack of awareness.
There’s far too many people walking around out there that just don’t have a clue about what’s going on in the world and the role that they play in shaping the environment.
We hear buzzwords like “climate change,” and “melting ice caps,” and “paper straws,” and unfortunately many of us just roll our eyes and move along with our days.
It doesn’t help that ecology in general is a taboo subject and that climate change has turned into a political subject, when it should be anything but.
Mindfulness, I would argue, is the key ingredient to bringing forth a better generation. One that truly recognizes the severity of the issues currently plaguing the planet, one that doesn’t politicize facts but instead acts on them, one that has a much closer relationship to the Earth.
It all begins with how we approach education.
Public Education Reform and New Priorities
Ever wonder how it came to be that as society rapidly changes all around us, very little has ever changed with public education?
Same subjects, same subject matter, same data-driven curricula, same boring classrooms.
To make matters worse, schools everywhere face budget crunches, dwindling resources, and underpaid staff, which forces important hands-on programs to be cut, such as arts and music.
Isn’t it bizarre that as we face down the biggest existential threat to our species in climate change, literally nothing is being done to reformat the way we educate and raise our children so that they are equipped to face the problem?
Because to be sure, a few extra lines about melting ice caps and dying oceans in Biology 101 isn’t going to breed ecological rebels. Instead of talking about climate change solutions, the vast majority of school curriculum merely talk about the subject in general, and in very vague terms.
No answers, other than “reduce, reuse, recycle,” which hasn’t exactly gotten us very far.
If we’re addressing the situation with the seriousness it warrants, we have to be open about changing how we approach education.
We are filling our children up with a whole lot of useless data, while the planet warms, species die out, oceans acidify, and super storms ravage communities.
The change has to start with our children. Can we really afford another generation to go by without equipping them for the future?
It’s bad enough most schools don’t even teach kids how to balance a check book or cook scrambled eggs. Where are the real world skills? Where is the awareness?
That is what is lacking most. Part of why we’re failing to combat environmental issues is because awareness in general is not a desired skill. We’re all being forced into these comfortable mental cubicles, and the result is that most of us just can’t come to grips with the scope of the problems we face.
For example, many can’t make the connection between acidic oceans and food shortages. Or the link between rising global temperatures and the rise in diseases. Or why bugs and frogs are disappearing. Or the impact of plastic particulates in our water.
None of this has any meaning to most people. We’re not ecologically connected as a society. Nature in general is foreign and strange to most of us, even for self-proclaimed “nature lovers.”
This lack of awareness is what brought about the problem in the first place. Our disconnection with nature is what allowed us to make so many dangerous mistakes as a society.
It’s what perpetuates a system that is ruthlessly destroying the planet that sustains us, at a rate so quick that most scientific models can never catch up to the reality of it.
The only answer is to shift the focus of public education and begin teaching more relevant, practical information and skills.
While the planet faces a mass extinction and the very balance of life gets altered, our children are being taught about dusty has-beens, watered down history, and so-called “new math.”
There is a crisis on our doorstep and this is the best we can do?
Children Are Begging For Better Education
It’s not like it would be difficult to change school curricula and get kids engaged in this material.
Children want to learn about animals and how to save them. They want to play in the garden, get their hands dirty, and help the environment. They want to learn fun and practical skills. They would do anything to escape the same tired classrooms and actually have a chance to learn and grow.
For example, when it’s actually attempted at school, gardening is a huge hit with kids. This is especially true when you take the time to teach them and show them how important it is that we grow plants and establish a relationship with nature.
Kids are very open to the reality of things. It’s the adults that have problems coming to terms with it.
Meditation is another example. Public schools have the opportunity to truly transform our society by teaching children how to be present and aware of their own actions. Meditation boasts huge success rates where it is practiced.
When mindfulness is practiced, it can quite literally help to transform how a child thinks and understands the world. With an expanded awareness, they can better grasp the need for holistic answers to problems.
If we’re facing dire problems as a society, we’re going to need a generation capable of doing better than the generations before us. These problems won’t be solved by technology and money alone.
They require mindfulness, a greater awareness of the interconnectedness of things, and how our actions have a huge impact on everything around us. There is much evidence that says that meditation imparts these skills.
The question remains then, why are we still pouring millions of dollars into outdated and stale teaching methods? Why do school curricula go virtually unchanged for decades when new problems arise in society on a yearly basis? How do we expect our children to solve increasingly complex problems with the same limited mentality?
It’s time to re-think education as a whole. Instead of it being little more than a has-been institution that stunts growth and compartmentalizes minds, public school could be transformed into a vehicle for true, lasting change in our society.
Investing in the Future
We only have one shot at this thing. It’s not like when all the glaciers melt and 99% of all sea life is gone, and food shortages and drought begin to cause wars, we can just hit the reset button and get a do-over.
If we don’t start taking climate change and the fate of the planet seriously, we’re going to reap the consequences.
Yes, all of us have to do what we can, each and every day.
But we’re doing the next generation a disservice by forcing them into a boring, lackluster education model that does absolutely nothing to expend their minds or prepare them to solve the climate crisis.
We need strong minds, not limited ones. We need young people who know a thing or two about planting trees, protecting heirloom vegetables, bird migrations, bee colonies and the dangers of animal agriculture.
There’s certainly enough people out there already who can tell us what date a certain war took place on or how to multiply a polynomial. This stuff is irrelevant and quite frankly a waste of our resources and time.
We’re simply repeating the same patterns, imparting the same behaviors to the next generation, and expecting that they’ll just pull it all together in the end. No thanks to us, of course.
That’s not good enough.
We need to find a way to shift funding into more dynamic, holistic programs in schools across the nation. We need to teach children how to think instead of what to think. We need to help them establish a bond with nature that will ensure they don’t contribute to its destruction and instead fight for its renaissance.
Above all else, it is crucial that the next generation be more mindful than generations of the past. What the planet needs are defenders, people who can empathize with the state of the world and form opinions and policy based on what is good for the whole, not just for a select few.
It might appear to be a difficult task, reforming education and bridging the gap between nature and society, but it is a must if we are to have any kind of a chance at tackling climate change and bring the planet back into balance.