by Joel Magnuson, author of The approaching great transformation: Toward a liveable post carbon economy
We as educators have a responsibility to emphasise education and foster a greater global awareness of the impact resource scarcity will have on us all. Our educational institutions need to be crafting a sense of global citizenship in our students as well as working toward revitalizing our local communities. The essence of humanitarian education is to foster a sense of the goodness that comes from contributing to one’s own community to further the cause of social justice and stability. As we become active citizens in our communities, we also become active citizens of the world.
Civic participation, civic regeneration and institution building are going to require people of all ages to have at least a basic understanding of why these are important and what role they can play in the regenerative process of change. In addition to problem-solving using social change models, education needs to be directed at cultivating a sense of well-being of others everywhere, not just in their own community or country. And to be successful community citizens and citizens of the world in the post-Oil Age period, we are all going to need new skills.
Developing Our Skills—New and Old
Moving towards a liveable future will require that people develop new skills and technologies, create new cultures, foster creativity, and raise awareness. Educational institutions need to develop new curricula and workshops that will provide tools and guidelines for people to relearn how to become functioning citizens and members of their communities because economic re-localization will require it. With the evolution of each community, the global community will evolve as well.
More emphasis needs to be placed on re-learning the lost arts of practical life skills, as well as crafting new ones that will be treasured by neighbourhoods and communities. People learn to do these things for the common good, and then the specific institutional forms will naturally sprout and grow and network with each other. As they do, a new commonwealth will naturally evolve. What it evolves into, however, will depend on the efforts for change we pursue today.
Reforming Economics Education for the 21st Century
If we were to boil down mainstream economics as it is taught to university students, what we would get are basically two things: microeconomics and macroeconomics. At the core of microeconomics is an assumption that the key elements behind the forces of supply and demand in the marketplace are choices. In microeconomics, everything is about being free to choose—to choose among competing products or competing career paths—in such a way that will yield the most satisfaction.
Instead of giving helpful concepts and guidelines for how to rebuild a commonwealth, economic discourse is loaded with stale and dreary arguments over meaningless froth. Or worse, it remains trapped in endless debates over mathematical formulae that mean nothing to anyone outside “the club”. As I argued in Mindful Economics (2008), if educating people about the economy is not the purpose of academic economics, what is?
Our efforts to build a new commonwealth at the end of the oil age needs wisdom, insight, compassion, as well as sound scientific reasoning. True educators who encourage independent thought and inquiry will themselves become the New Monastics who will carry these as treasures for future generations who will need them to survive in a world without oil.