The dominant premise underlying contemporary educational theory and practice is that citizens are members of political communities who have inherent rights as part of that membership and concomitant responsibilities that inform their beliefs, commitments, capabilities, and actions as members of these same communities. How individuals govern themselves in relation to others within the political community is a primary aim of education in contemporary policy documents, aims, and objectives statements. Yet, despite the urgency and salience of students learning to live together in the face of social division and conflict, the framing of citizenship and ethics in schools varies at least as much as the different visions of what constitutes a good citizen in the first place. This lack of consensus is reflected in how and where citizenship is framed in schools, how it is considered in policy, and how it is interpreted and facilitated in classrooms. Various educational theorists have also conceptualized the notion of citizenship and its place in schools. The variety of perspectives on these questions underscores the difficulties that educators experience in navigating ethical challenges in an educational and social context, where citizenship has become a publicly contested issue.
The term “Anthropocene” was coined in 2000 by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer to denote the present time interval as a new epoch of geological time dominated by human impact on the Earth. The starting date for the epoch is contentious—around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (ca. 1800 ce), at the start of the nuclear age, or some other time, both earlier and later than these dates. The term itself is also contentious because of its humanist and human supremacy focus, and the way it hides troublesome differences between humans (including gender and cultural differences) and the intimate relationships among technology, humans, and other animals. Endeavors such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aim to achieve gender equality by empowering women to participate in society. However, within this goal is the assumption that women and “other marginalized Others” can be assimilated within the dominant social paradigm rather than questioning the assumptions that maintain the subordination of these social groups. The goals also overlook the divergent impacts on women around the globe. Education in an Anthropocene context necessitates a different pedagogy that provides opportunities for learning to live in and engage with the world and acknowledges that we live in a more-than-human world. It also requires learners to critique the Anthropocene as a concept and its associated themes to counter the humanist perspective, which fails to consider how the nonhuman and material worlds coshape our mutual worlds. In particular, education in the Anthropocene will need to be interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, or cross-disciplinary; intersectional; ecofeminist or posthumanist; indigenous; and participatory.