Schooling at the Doorstep of Dystopia: On Educating for Unsustainable Futures


  • Roger Saul University of New Brunswick



The lifespans of North American public school students are on course to intersect with emerging dystopian realities of human pain and suffering brought about by climate change and its effects. Are schools well-disposed to engage students earnestly about the worlds that scientific consensus advises us they will encounter? This essay of critique suggests that they are not. It suggests that a set of interrelated tendencies, fundamental to the philosophy and functioning of schools, precludes their doing so. It names and discusses these tendencies as the problem of overwhelming school allegiances to a self-help ethos of vacant positivity, the structural infantilization of young people as a function of school power relations, and the allegiance to short term economic imperatives and individualism over environmental sustainability and communitarianism in determinations of the meanings and purposes of education. The essay concludes that on the current course, schools are miseducating students and encouraging them on a path toward unsustainable futures.