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Sustainability and the learning virtues

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date06/2011
JournalJournal of Curriculum Studies
Journal number3
Volume43
Number of pages19
Pages383-402
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Learning is important to sustainability—but how? On the dominant sustainable development picture, various kinds of learning are seen as instrumental to one’s behaving responsibly towards future generations, within a framework of present actions and ecological consequences. This whole picture of future‐oriented responsibility is radically flawed, fundamentally misrepresenting our creative engagement in change. It grossly exaggerates our powers to predict and control and licenses an endemic bad faith in the construction of sustainability goals supposedly derived from obligations to the future. This process is not only the opposite of genuine learning, but is very likely to ensure practical failure. In contrast, a model of ecological responsibility that might work will have learning not as a subsidiary and instrumental feature, but right at its core. The only way in which one really comes up against the constraint of the future is by acknowledging the demands of active learning—critical self‐awareness, exploratory‐creative commitment, and a robust tolerance for uncertainty—as virtues. The paper develops this account of the learning virtues in detail, and shows how embodying their practice across all our institutions and activities constitutes the only kind of responsibility to the future which we can genuinely exercise.