Some thoughts on Monbiot and how to educate for the 21st century

George Monbiot, a man whose name is – in certain circles – synonymous with controversy, recently published an article on his website and in the Guardian entitled ‘Factory Outlet’. The post opens with the statement that it is “very controversial” (which certainly encouraged me to keep reading!) and he provides links at the end to examples where it has been heavily criticised online.

The premise is that schools are using an out-dated form of education based on 20th century practices that equip young people for, as the title states, factory life. Throughout the article, Monbiot does provide a variety of examples of schools around the world that are challenging this model. Our experience at SEEd has shown this to be absolutely the case. There are many, many teachers out there whose focus is on fostering creativity and critical thinking, and whose learning practices and pedagogies encourage young people to develop a sense of care for themselves, others, and the planet. Whilst Monbiot highlights examples from ‘alternative’ schools, a large number of the teachers we encounter at SEEd are doing this from within the regular school system. Take a look at our list of school members for examples of some of these schools.

Yet in spite of these good examples, it is clear, as Monbiot writes, that our focus must be on a world that encourages collaboration, not competition. At SEEd we promote pedagogies that encourage this kind of transformational learning. Globally, these are defined as Education for Sustainable Development. It is our expertise in this area, as well as our knowledge of ‘Whole School Approaches’ to embedding sustainability, that resulted in us being selected as key partners on the UNESCO Global Action Programme for ESD. You can read more about this here.

We work with teachers and educators to build their capacity and knowledge of ESD principles so that all young people are able to participate in the creation of a better world. We do this through reaching out via social media, networking, and running events. So, George – if you are reading this – please do get in touch and help us to strengthen our movement!