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Educating for an Ecological Civilization: Interdisciplinary, Experiential, and Relational Learning Paperback – January 6, 2017
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About the Author
MARCUS FORD taught Environmental Humanities at Northern Arizona for twenty years and is the author of Beyond the Modern University: Toward a Constructive Postmodern University and William James’s Philosophy: A New Perspective. He currently is involved in starting a very-small college is Flagstaff Arizona and is working with others to promote the establishment of other, very-small, mission-driven, educational institutions around the country and aboard. STEPHEN ROWE is Professor of Philosophy, Liberal Studies, and Religious Studies at Grand Valley State University. He is also actively engaged in intercultural dialogue and consultation on liberal education though several universities and institutions in China and the U.S. An award winning teacher, his books include Rediscovering the West: An Inquiry into Nothingness and Relatedness (SUNY Press, 1994, in Chinese, Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 1996), and, most recently, Overcoming America / America Overcoming: Can We Survive Modernity? (Lexington Books, 2012, and forthcoming in Chinese).
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It’s clear that Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization, the conference at Pomona College in July of 2015 that led to this volume, was extraordinary. Thankfully, Ford and Rowe have, in putting together this collection of essays from the higher education track of the conference, captured not only important insights from participants but also the vibrancy and passion that must have permeated the conference and continues to radiate forth.
Extremely well-written, many of the essays simply come alive with the authors’ compassion for equity, education and deep thought in service to society and the natural world. Collectively they make a compelling case for viewing humans as part of an intrinsically valuable natural world, rather than as above all with the unquestioned right to assign value only to those things directly of use to humans. Coherent ideas and examples are given for how such a shift in worldview might be accomplished through bolstering higher education’s potential for bringing about individual and societal transformation rather than just as means to material wealth.
Alfred North Whitehead –philosopher, physicist, and mathematician, whose ideas inspired both the conference and book, recognized the roots of our current environmental and community problems lay within our education system and its increasing emphasis on materialism and economic growth. While most of the essays return to the ideas of Whitehead, to their credit, the authors also include essays that reach beyond and endeavor to embed Whitehead’s philosophy within the broader, older, set of positive, constructive visions for humans, the planet, and the future.
While recognizing that this conference was primarily for philosophers, theologians, artists, and social scientists, these essays so inspired me that I wished for the views of a few more scientists to be included. As an ecologist, I know that many scientists are also concerned with the current direction of higher education and its role in the destruction of the planet and indeed, what we know as the human soul. Underlying many a passion to study the natural world lies a dedication to educating the whole person as part of that world and in service of a more equitable and positive future for it.
This volume and its essays are an inspiring read for anyone who is involved in education (especially higher education), has contemplated and cares about the state of our planet and its inhabitants, and is interested in how the dominant social and economic paradigms might be changed. It is not only thought provoking, helpful, and hopeful, but also a powerful call to action.