If one thinks of learning as it fits certain formal notions of education (learning chemistry, learning math, learning to speak French, learning to write), it seems ludicrous to talk about the “future of learning” given our current circumstances, when our planetary home is burning to the ground, so to speak. Humankind is foolishly, some might say suicidally, destabilizing planetary systems and disrupting the web of life to a catastrophic degree. Under these conditions, what good does it do to memorize verb declensions or to solve polynomial equations or earn diplomas that certify that we can do those things?
On the other hand, if we think about learning as being focused on developing a capacity to discern and address the problems of the Anthropocene, it may be worth thinking about and pursuing. If learning is about developing the capacity to collaborate, developing effective problem-solving strategies, and building consensus around sustainable and stabilizing approaches to our interactions with the world and with each other, it might be worthwhile. If “the future of learning” is about seeking to achieve a sufficient level of collective wisdom, where we face our responsibilities maturely and do what is necessary to assure the survival and thriving of not only all humans currently alive, but also other species and, indeed, the entire web of life, then it could be extremely helpful.
In this blog, I probably ought to focus “the future of learning” in the second sense, where learning increases collaboration, develops critical and complex thinking, encourages learners to seek broad-based, iterative, and practical solutions to wicked problems. I might add that the kind of learning that I believe we need in this troubled time is learning that promotes “deliberative democracy,” where citizens seriously and responsibly consider good and true information, debate potential solutions with the greater good in mind, and come to a productive consensus based on broadly shared values that include respect for truth and goodness, the survival of humanity, the protection of our collective safety, and concern for everyone’s ability to live decently. Of course, these results ought to be the true goal of any democratic process, but as we all know, alas, it is not. Democracy in post-truth America seems to be more about oneupmanship, scoring points dishonestly, making one’s enemies look like fools, serving extremist ideologies, and serving one’s own interests and/or paying off debts to lobbyists and sponsors by corruptly using the power of the state, with reckless disregard for the common good.
If I can focus on learning that not only teaches individuals how to learn for themselves, how to think critically, how to discern what is important, but also how to get others to do the same, then it will be worthwhile.
So, for the foreseeable future, that will be one of the principal goals of this blog. The future of learning IN THE ANTHROPOCENE, which includes inculcating true wisdom, tolerance, deliberative democracy in the best sense of that term… That’s what I’ll be shooting to elucidate and flesh out.