Educating for Hope in Troubled Times

Wind farmHicks, David (2014) Educating for Hope in Troubled Times, Trentham Books/Institute of Education Press

What loftier claim is there for geography than it can make the world a better place? Locally and globally, we can understand, evaluate and create. Our subject has consequence.

David Hicks, well known for his long-standing work on futures perspectives and global sustainability, helps us look how this happens. In recent years he has manifested ‘educating for hope’ including his lecture at the Geographical Association Conference in 2012.

As with the futures concept, educating for hope is beguiling. On the one hand it is straightforward enough but clearly the geography curriculum has been slow to fully embrace it. On the other hand it is fiendishly sophisticated as it may seem necessary to understand problems from all angles before making a coherent case for solutions.

In no doubt, this book is clear about the ‘troubled times’: it is sub-titled ‘Climate change and the transition to a post-carbon future.’ It states confidently, “Geographers and others do need to debate the certain and uncertain consequences of climate change, but not the fact of its existence.” (p. 27)

It starts with a succinct chapter on where we are with thinking globally and gets stuck in with climate change, easy oil and growing limits.

On the role for education, Hicks challenges us with a distinction: “A light-green response to social and environmental issues just scrapes the surface. It implies that if we were all a bit greener things would be all right – if we recycle a bit more, switch off the lights, pick up litter, perhaps do a project on polar bears.”

However, “A dark-green response to social and environmental issues digs deeper. It asks more profound questions about Western economic, historical and cultural trends. It notes that changing individuals’ behaviour, while important, is not enough… our rich-world lifestyles run so deep that we often fail to get to the roots of our environmental problems.”

Part two, called Facing the challenge has chapters on Acknowledging feelings, Questioning the future and Accepting transition. Discussion here includes a proper context for emotional literacy and other ideas packaged by schools within SMSC. It is an area where geography can make a vital contribution to the whole-child experience.

Part three, as you would anticipate, outlines the nature of hope and sharing success stories. This calls upon previous work in very accessible form. Setting the task for educators to share their own good success stories for children illustrates the positive tone of this book.

The text is thoroughly referenced but not overly-academic with each chapter providing practical ‘Ideas for teaching’ and ‘Five things a school can do’. For example, there are three suggestions for looking again at ecological footprints in different ways. There is something to find for immediate action; and many other ideas ready to flourish later.

This book will help lift your spirits and think more positively about the geography of the human condition.

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