Interview with David W. Orr
What is the purpose of education? What exactly are we trying to achieve by sending kids to school for twelve years? Many people talk about reform, but Dr. David Orr, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, says we need to rethink our school systems altogether. Further, he sees a direct connection between how we teach children and the disastrous impacts of our dependence on fossil fuels. A pioneer in the ecological literacy movement, he believes that all education should be ecologically based, from the design of the campus to the curriculum itself.
This article is reprinted with permission from the periodical SuperConsciousness
"All education is environmental education," says Orr. "Students either learn that they are a part of or apart from the natural world." He points out that some of the worst atrocities in modern memory, including those perpetuated in Nazi Germany, were carried out by highly educated people. "Much of what has gone wrong with the world is the result of education that alienates us from life in the name of human domination . . . and unleashes on the world minds ignorant of their own ignorance," he says. One result is the abuse of the environment, leading to an accelerated rate of climate change.
There's a whole lot of stuff I think we don't need to know. The things that we do need to know are going to pertain to basics like growing food, building shelter, creating local economies that work, capturing energy.
The remedy Orr proposes would teach interrelatedness through schools that are fundamentally rooted in a sense of place. As the driving force behind the erection of Oberlin's Lewis Center, a building described by the New York Times as "the most remarkable" of a new generation of college buildings, Orr put his ideas into action. The building is a model of sustainable design and students and faculty were included in the planning process. He spoke with SC Magazine about an education that empowers students to be creative and make decisions that enable a renewable future.