To understand our vision, we first need to explain what’s deeply wrong with modern education. We don’t intend to deny the many great achievements and discoveries that modern education has made, or the hard work and useful contribution which educators have made during the modern period. Our main point here is that there are systemic problems with modern education, and those issues are much more larger and deeper than the mistakes made by any one educator or educational institution. When systems are broken, they cannot be fixed by a single individual or organization. Therefore, what we urgently need now is a fundamental transformation.

The Modern Vision

The following chart illustrates the primary goal of our modern education system and how it works.

Click image to enlarge

With this chart we can see clearly that the main purpose of modern education is to serve modern industrial civilization. It ultimately leads students to become rootless, lifeless, fragmental homo economicus, and selfish elites. As Prof. Marcus Ford points out, “Because higher education had, for the last hundred years or more, been committed to a modern worldview, it has been, on the whole, an unwitting promoter of individualism, anthropocentrism, economism, consumerism, militarism, nationalism, mechanization, and patriarchy. In short, it has been a supporter of the kind of modern civilization that we currently have in the West and are seeking to globalize—the kind of civilization that destroying the planet, undermining human communities, and robbing human life of deep meaning.”(Marcus Ford & Stephen Rowe, Eds., Educating for an Ecological Civilization, 7)

Professor Ford says further that “we are failing as a civilization, because we have adopted a way of thinking about reality that does not make sense and a form of higher education that reinforces this worldview. There are no viable, long-term, solutions to our current situation short of rethinking our most basic assumptions regarding the nature of reality. We need a different metaphysics and a different form education so that we can fundamentally remake our civilization.”(Marcus Ford & Stephen Rowe, Eds., Educating for an Ecological Civilization, 52) This is the reason why we cannot merely reform the existing educational system. We need a radical paradigm shift in education. We need a new comprehensive vision of education in order to create a new civilization—an ecological civilization. As David Orr says in the connection with our ecological crisis, “it is not education, but education of a certain kind, that will save us.”(David Orr, Earth in Mind, 8)

An Ecological Vision

Our new vision what we call ecological education. It is expressed clearly in the following diagram:

Click image to enlarge

We are calling for a new educational system which is informed by Alfred North Whitehead’s, philosophy of organism and will promote an ecological civilization. Therefore, we refer to it as an ecological education which unifies a sense of rootedness, an understanding of life, an integral approach to learning, and an affirmation of value. It will cultivate children who become persons in community, living beings, responsible beings, and “Tong Ren.” In a word, it will not only help our ego-centered students to become of eco-centered persons, who enjoy meaningful lives with health and happiness, but also inspire them to strive to make the whole planet a place to live, live well, and live better.

Today we need an ecological education that takes place in families, schools, communities and nature; that includes hands-on learning as well as the acquisition of ideas and values; that engages the whole person, heart and body and mind; and that helps a person learn how to live wisely and compassionately in community with other people, animals and the earth. We call it Ecological Education.

John B. Cobb, Jr.
Honorary President

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