The Failure Of Environmental Education

Most modern institutions of formal education and schooling are an integral part of the global treadmill of production.54 The educational analogy to the global "treadmill of production" is the "degree-mill" of ideological reproduction. Modern schooling has played an instrumental part in ideologically reproducing the progressively ecocidal global predicament. After all, as social critic and linguist Noam Chomsky notes:

... the universities are not independent institutions. They are dependent on outside sources of support and those sources of support, such as private wealth, big corporations with grants, and the government (which is so closely interlinked with corporate power you can barely distinguish them).55

Let me make two general observations about the relationship between ecocide and education. Environmental education historically emerges at the point when, first, ecology becomes a profitable branch of secondary industries within the framework of global capitalism, and when, second, modern societies are for the first time confronted with the possibility of their self-annihilation.56 School-based environmental education over the past few decades has been slowly developing. Relatively little attention has been paid to community-based and other practical forms of education.

But even school-based environmental education requires further improvement. Allan Schnaiberg, one of the leading US environmental sociologists, was one of the first academics to raise concerns about the poor state of environmental education in the institutions of higher learning in the United States and elsewhere.57 Schnaiberg argues that "few of our undergraduates really are exposed to much systematic thinking about environmental issues in their experiences." What passes for "environmental education," in Schnaiberg's words, "is deeply flawed at every level of the educational system." He concludes on a pessimistic note: "I have repeatedly found, in teaching and in meetings (including professional meetings), that students and even colleagues lack any really systematic perspective on ecological systems, on social systems, and especially on the systematic relationship between the two."58 In short, the dominant institutions - the culture industry, schooling, and the media - have failed to develop a serious educational initiative because they are too deeply rooted in the existing political-economic structures of the global treadmill of production.

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