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What Is Education for

  • Date Submitted: 09/06/2012 08:54 AM
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What Is Education For?
Six myths about the foundations of modern education,  
and six new principles to replace them
by David Orr
One of the articles in The Learning Revolution (IC#27)
Winter 1991, Page 52
Copyright (c)1991, 1996 by Context Institute  
We are accustomed to thinking of learning as good in and of itself. But as environmental
educator David Orr reminds us, our education up till now has in some ways created a
monster. This essay is adapted from his commencement address to the graduating class
of 1990 at Arkansas College. It prompted many in our office to wonder why such
speeches are made at the end, rather than the beginning, of the collegiate experience.
David Orr is the founder of the Meadowcreek Project, an environmental education center
in Fox, AR, and is currently on the faculty of Oberlin College in Ohio. Reprinted from
Ocean Arks International's excellent quarterly tabloid Annals of Earth, Vol. VIII, No. 2,
1990. Subscriptions $10/year from 10 Shanks Pond Road, Falmouth, MA 02540.
If today is a typical day on planet Earth, we will lose 116 square miles of rainforest, or
about an acre a second. We will lose another 72 square miles to encroaching deserts, as a
result of human mismanagement and overpopulation. We will lose 40 to 100 species, and
no one knows whether the number is 40 or 100. Today the human population will
increase by 250,000. And today we will add 2,700 tons of chlorofluorocarbons to the
atmosphere and 15 million tons of carbon. Tonight the Earth will be a little hotter, its
waters more acidic, and the fabric of life more threadbare.
The truth is that many things on which your future health and prosperity depend are in
dire jeopardy: climate stability, the resilience and productivity of natural systems, the
beauty of the natural world, and biological diversity.
It is worth noting that this is not the work of ignorant people. It is, rather, largely the
result of work by people with...

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