A Values-Based Pedagogy as a Form of Eco-political Resistance

How to incorporate a gender lens in the evaluation of social programs
August 6, 2018

A Values-Based Pedagogy as a Form of Eco-political Resistance

In the words of the Iranian-American philosopher S. H. Nasr (1997) “the environmental crisis is fundamentally a crisis of values.” Environmental sustainability cannot be widely achieved in the absence of social justice (Goodwin, 2003). Equity and equality that forge the concept of justice as fairness (Rawls, 1971)[1] are not value-neutral (Goodwin, 2003) and are deeply rooted in the political and economic ideologies of the status quo.

Environmental sustainability goes hand to hand with human rights as both point out the current political and economic status quo as the main cause for existing inequity and inequality in the human-human/human-nature[2] relationships. Historically, “green-environmental’ movements and human rights activism have failed in finding a common path. Although under an anthropocentric vision, progress against the deeper structures of oppression and environmental exploitation could only be made when the movements recognized their connections (Cone, cited in Spencer, 2008).

Achieving solutions must tackle environmental literacy not only in achieving better educated citizens, private sector entrepreneurs, and politicians in specific topics but also in revisiting values and norms in politically contested decision making (Goodwin, 2003) for ecological justice[3].

A values-based pedagogic approach

The current political and economic status quo is sustained by the existing educational paradigm (Robinson, n.d.) and as long as the current Technopoly (Postman, 1993) development paradigm keeps seeing nature as a resource to exploit, human rights inequities will remain. Current education systems enhance the belief technology is the solution to environmental-human challenges regardless of the values behind technological development. However, even a change in production technology will not be sufficient to achieve sustainability (Daly, 1987).

On the other hand, transparency accountability and participation that are considered key in enhancing governance fail short in addressing inequity issues. Instead, credibility is to be considered one of the most important soft skills in the generations to come (Bellaubi and Pahl-Wostl, 2017).

The anthropocene pushes for a further understanding of values-oriented solutions. Therefore, as Martin Luther King (1967) said, we must call for “a radical revolution of values” shifting from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘nature-oriented’ society.

How do we achieve a development paradigm shift? What is the role of pedagogy and a values-based approach? Is it possible achieve ecological justice by these means? These are very pertinent questions.

Indeed, education plays a key role in pointing out paradigm failures and paving the way for change (Dewey, 2001). In his turn, Freire (1970) points out pedagogy as being a clear political and social purpose liberating the oppressed. Furthermore, Postman (1993) defines teaching as a subversive activity.

The term pedagogy encompasses the act of teaching to learn to think as a self-liberating and consciousness process based on the concept of critical pedagogy. Pedagogy as an action contributes to sustainable learning establishing communities of practices (Pahl-Wostl et al., 2007) where, if degrees of ecological justice are achieved, need to be seen within the influences played by ecological movements and communities of practice.

The term political resistance is understood as the hope brought into the pedagogic process as a created value (Makiguchi, cited in Kumagai, 2000) considering not only the formal education teacher-student relationship but also the accompanying relationships (advice and extension) outside the formal education (e.g. in communities of practice), as a struggle for faithfulness/credible relations (Human-Nature). This faithfulness/credible relation is reached when the Human takes full consciousness of Nature as being part of it in a sense of belonging one to another. Therefore, pedagogy has a moral and humanistic sense (Tolstoy, cited in Yegorov 1999). However, values are rooted in different beliefs and ideologies[4] that interact with history-story territorial identities as human-nature relationship constructs, and manifested through cultural and folkloric expressions in the duality power-space over time (territories as spaces of power but also the power of the space).[5]

The added-created value of pedagogy

Exploring the value-creating pedagogy to challenge the Technoply paradigm means to take into consideration the created cultural capital as an individual factor and also that of solidarity as a social variable that makes individuals part of a community in the sense of voluntary engagement towards the Others (humans and non-humans or Nature). Another concept of importance is social cohesion related to the social gains/cost in the relationships with the Others.

The cultural capital as a power to influence change is not only based on knowledge and capacities that largely have failed in addressing behavioral change but on attitude that defines credibility levels. Attitude is key in boosting credibility working in two complementary directions: integrity and ethics that shape our moral judgments between what we believe and how we behave. There is extensive research-advocacy on integrity issues but more needs to be done on ethics. In this sense, game theory and, specifically, understanding ecological moral dilemmas can help us to improve how teaching  influences moral judgment.

In its turn, solidarity has been largely forgotten in the discussion about ethics. Rather than a concept or theory, solidarity remains an idea that, in contrast to a theory or concept, does not need justification but justifies itself (Tischner, 2005). Tischner talks about the ethics of solidarity as the ethics of the conscience but this idea does not need to be kept in the individual sphere but be enlarged as a social-natural phenomenon bounded to politics, an ethics of social conscience.

[1]              According to Schlosberg (2007) justice is viewed as essentially including the elements of distribution, recognition, and representation, whilst the capabilities (Sen, 1979) represents as an alternative to the distributional paradigm of justice

[2]              In the sense non-human nature.

[3]              For ecological justice see Kortetmäki (2017).

[4]              Ideology is understood as an imaginary of spiritual ideas that unfold in an array of multiple values in the perception of the World exercising a political influences on historic territorial identities as power of spaces and spaces of power (author, based on Žižek, 1989).

[5]              Culture can be understood as a set of perceptual abilities, norms, values and frames, which are typical modes of acting that characterize specific groups and that are enacted in social practices. Tàbara and Pahl-Wostl (2007) defined the conceptual and methodological approach of cultural framework analysis as a coherent system of reference elements relative to the way of recognizing, rationalizing, evaluating and prescribing given phenomena of social (or socio-environmental) reality in such a way that they become significant and memorable for the different social actors at stake.

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