Zoe Weil is a blogger for Psychology Today, and we share her blog posts here. This post is a short excerpt from the second edition of Zoe’s book, The World Becomes What We Teach, which will be coming out in March, 2021.
In the United States the current purpose of schooling is expressed in the mission statement at the U.S. Department of Education website: to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. Is this mission sufficient and appropriate for students whose future is threatened by global problems they will be required to address? Might they be better served by a more meaningful and comprehensive mission that includes learning to solve the challenges they will face?
Climate change is not a future possibility; it is happening now, with catastrophic impacts on humans and nonhumans alike. Human population continues to grow, and of the nearly 8 billion people in the world, more than 700 million live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 per day and approximately 40 million are living in slavery (www.worldvision.org).
While disenfranchised groups have gained critical legal rights and protections, racism, sexism, homophobia/transphobia and other forms of oppression and prejudice persist not only in the hearts and minds of individuals but within institutional structures. Animals, too, are facing horrific exploitation and cruelty. Tens of billions of land animals and trillions of sea animals suffer and die each year as part of an unsustainable and inhumane global food system. Meanwhile, misinformation, disinformation, and polarization impact our ability to accurately identify and collaboratively address these and other challenges.
Despite the grim realities above, we’ve seen real progress and have ever-expanding opportunities to solve our problems. For example, people in countries around the globe are living longer and more materially secure lives, and (media reports notwithstanding) there is less violence toward people than ever before in recorded human history. Only in this century have we had the capacity to communicate and collaborate instantaneously with so many across the globe.