Orr (1994) critiques the system of education by claiming that it is greatly flawed. He provides examples of luminaries in science and politics who have pursued education to its highest degree and despised its inadequacy. His claims are well substantiated but also a bit too generalized. This is because not all people, for example, who have undergone the formal kind of education, are as clueless about nature as he suggests. However, it is in mentioning these extremes that change can be inspired. Education is expressed as being dangerous as it alienates people from the true essence of life. His examples of the Atomic bomb and the Manhattan project are fitting because they capture the danger of pursuing education without being tempered by cultural and ecological influences, which are what life is truly about. Orr (1994) mentions three reasons why the current trends in education are innately flawed. The first claim is that young people have always pursued education rather than to discover their calling and purpose in life.
He asserts that education has failed to capture values on life. This claim resonates true with most young people on career paths that they do not enjoy being in. The second reason provided is that education is innately flawed because it teaches people to face life with a disciplinary template. This may work in the classroom setting but it is bound to inflict harm to the environment/ ecology and culture. This reason makes sense because it has led to the pursuit of economical excellence in industry and business that has inflicted injury on how people relate to each other and their environment. The third reason is that education has resulted in the death of wonder and discovery for uncharted things and places. This is true because education places conceptual boundaries and scientific laws to be followed. This ignores the fact that nature contributed to the discovery of these laws.
Gruenewald (2003) proposes a critical pedagogy of place. He, like Orr (1994), is of the opinion that education today lacks the essential input of social and ecological places, which may be brought about through place-based education. He proposes a place-based approach to education which places learning in a context of biological, ecological and environmental influences. His approach raises questions on the inequalities of power. He also claims that current educational processes lack transformative intellectuals who will not only broaden the spectrum of learning, but also inspire more independence in students. These claims and assertions are highly accurate because education should not just be based on a competitive context. Instead, it should be linked with place-based experiences, widely known as decolonization and reinhabitation.
Five strategies to effecting place-based learning that would work well include local area cultural studies; investigating and solving community issues; entrepreneurship and internships; study of local nature and the induction of localized decision-making. These approaches fit in well with Orr’s (1994) assertions that education is flawed if at the end of the learning process, the individual has not learnt how to intersect with civic engagement practices. Orr (1994) and Gruenewald (2003) insist on the need to change the educational strategies. The approaches suggested by both are similar in that they call for a more realistic and life-based approach to teaching, which considers the role played by environmental and ecological influences.
Gruenewald, D. A. (2003). The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place. Educational Researcher, 32(4), 3-12.
Orr, D. W. (1994). Earth in mind: on education, environment, and the human prospect. Washington, DC: Island Press.