Questioning Nature and Environmental Ethics in Schools
- Jorge Moreira, Jorge MoreiraUniversity of Coimbra, Universidade Aberta; SEA - Sociedade de Ética Ambiental
- Fátima AlvesFátima AlvesUniversity of Coimbra; Universidade Aberta, Portugal
- and Ana MendonçaAna MendonçaUniversity of Coimbra; Universidade Aberta, Portugal
Contemporary sciences and societies are facing several problems when analyzing the relationship between the natural and social dimensions of the world as reflected in the field of education. A serious effort must be urgently made to identify and tackle environmental problems in order to understand the world in which we live, in ways that are beneficial to present and future life on Earth. In this context, it is fundamental to create a new social order in a way that thinking “out of the box” can emerge with other orders closer to the diversity of life that coexist on the planet. Consequently, the awareness of the complexity and multidimensionality of our world requires the building of new forms of reflexivity and the development of critical thinking, reversing the still predominant characteristics of modern societies such as compartmentalization of knowledge, unhealthy competition, profit-seeking motivations, the exploitation of nature, and excessive individualist and anthropocentric approaches. In this regard, educational institutions play a relevant role in shaping future human actions to be more ethically harmonic (both environmentally and socially) as they are sites of knowledge production and sharing.
Hence, it is crucial to rethink the entire educational paradigm and learning system (objectives, curricula, pedagogical strategies, instruments, competencies, school management framework, and even school buildings), because schools often function as “islands,” isolating students from nature, the community, and the “real world,” not preparing them to be well-informed and conscious citizens nor for the challenges that lie ahead. Some theoretical and practical alternatives are needed since schools actually embody the paradoxes and dilemmas of the current societal malaise but have not yet been able to deal with them or to provide adequate effective responses.