Walking with Wolfgang Klafki (4)

By Sean Blenkinsop

(For previous posts in this series, see herehere. and here.)

So now we’ve reached Klaki’s question #3. Here it is again:

c)     What constitutes the topic’s significance for the children’s future?  

I am guessing that, given the amount of ink spilled over this one, Klafki is not just asking teachers to think about having students be work-ready or up-skilled or even turned into experts in a particular area of study. I say this because since the very beginning of Bildung there has been an express critique of educational projects that are simply trying to prepare folks for jobs, or a narrow area of knowledge, or even to recapitulate and perpetuate the status quo. There has always been a justice bent to Bildung, a push towards a more wholistic education that prepares students for embracing their freedoms, for creating their own lives, and for having an influence on their community and culture in ways that different from the current norms. With this frame you can also hear where the eco might find a crack to wiggle itself into.

Today was a short day. We left the coast and wandered overland through small farms and forests. it was nice to see this change of pace from the tourist focused small towns where one can get pizzas and hamburgers as desired (no banana pancakes that I could see but guessing one could ask). This in turn had my mind begin to wonder about skills of planting, growing, caring for animals, making and repairing clothes, being self-sufficient in other words—the kinds of skills that come in handy out here. When I was working in the SFU Semester in Dialogue, I found that, when given the opportunity to learn anything they wanted, many of our undergrad students turned to these same kinds of skills. It seemed to me that underneath it all many of these students were worried about the future, about what they’d need if global trade were to stop or we were to take social justice at the global level seriously. In some ways, these university students represent the apex of an educational system that prioritizes a particular set of knowledges and skills that may make sense if there is a world out there doing all the growing, building, fixing, removing, etc. but become totally useless if all that stops. They have no idea how actually care for themselves outside of earning a salary that allows them to pay others to “do all that”.

So, what is the future we are preparing children for, and how does it relate to what we are teaching? Given the above, the eco and social justice responses to Klafki’s question are actually quite significant. Public education in Canada (and likely other places) is filled with language relating to future citizenship, but is not really readying students either for the rapidly changing and uncertain world we moving into or for a more expansive sense of citizenship that not only genuinely includes all of humanity but also is leaving space for the myriad denizens of the more-than-human world. Here we might see educators finding ways to role-model eco-democracy in their educational spaces, enabling students to experience what it could means for all of our relations, human and more than human, to be considered and, even better, to have a voice. We might also see a greater emphasis on developing the skills that will be needed as we enter the Anthropocene, e.g. comfort with change and uncertainty, building community/alliances, finding ways to be more self-reliant, and readiness for the hard work of undoing explicit, implicit, assumed, and institutional injustices.



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