for the future’
of the central roles of education is commonly regarded as
‘preparing students for the future’. Yet, what is meant by this?
Are there taken-for-granted ways of looking at the future
that rebound on what we do or do not do in the present? Are there
often colonising or culturally violent images of what might be? The
road to freedom is a long one, as suggested by Nelson Mandela
(1994), but how do we learn to walk in our schools, our societies
and as a species in ways that display more foresight, more
compassion and more solidarity?
How do we learn to walk in ways that combine freedom with
responsibility and lessen the prospects for violent, foreclosed
The idea of
It was Gandhi who
remarked that there is enough for everyone's needs but not
everyone's greed. If
there is to be an extension of this principle to unborn generations,
what does this imply? Is
a paradigm shift towards less violent and more inclusive ways of
intergenerational caring likely?
Are there practical contributions that our teachers and
schools may make to a new global ethic?
Or is this merely a pipe-dream?
a peace educator, environmental educator and critical futurist, I am
the first to admit that the obstacles to any such shift are
all, there is a powerful push of the past.
Business-as-usual practices often hide the real environmental
and social costs of enterprises, especially on children, women, the
poor and the natural environment.
Such culturally myopic practices are defined in mainstream
economic theory as 'externalities'
Attendant risks may be obscured as to how the futures of
unborn generations are being mortgaged.
Rather than attempting constructively to deal with trends in
violence, such as the 2 million children who have been killed in
wars over the past decade or the increased pace of environmental
destruction, we may assume such
trends are destiny. Rather
than prudential care and applied foresight, there may be the blind
pursuit of short term goals that ignores the interests of the
'two-thirds world' and of generations to come.
Rather than working together to help build a better world, in
which unborn generations have the possibility to live, to laugh, to
play, to share, to care and to transform conflicts non-violently, we
may fatalistically accept a foreclosed future.
Rather than building intergenerational partnerships, the well
being of children today and of successive generations may be stolen
or colonized through our lack of quality responses.
The needs of future
generations: a neglected dimension in the school curriculum?
It has been
commented that much of what happens in our schools is about driving
into the future whilst looking in the rear vision mirror.
This metaphor has been extended to picturing our young people
as, in many cases, crash victims of
'future shock'. Even
if we question the cynical nature of this comment, we may see some
truth in its claims to describe reality and potential reality.
is the situation more complex and open?
Even if there is taken-for-granted knowledge about
'perpetual' trends in direct, structural and ecological forms of
violence, are there opportunities for resistance?
Admittedly, there are some powerful cultural myths,
particularly from Western selective traditions about ‘drivers of
history’, but are they the full story?
(see table 1.1)
foreclosed images or guiding metaphors about our schools and other
social organisations, are there site-specific opportunities for our
teachers and teacher educators to become practical futurists?
Are there opportunities for choice and engagement in helping
to build cultures of peace and environmentally sustainable futures?
Are there opportunities for civic engagement in our schools
and other social organisations to challenge narrow notions of
education and citizenship that fail to take seriously our
children’s rights and the needs of future generations?
(see Table 1.2).
some major cultural myths
reductionist (e.g. schools driven by market imperatives;
schools as businesses, Smithian ‘hidden hand’)
determinist (e.g. technologically driven change shaping
schools, society and the future; ‘future shock’
determinist (e.g. genetic causality claimed for the origins
of warfare; humans chained by their genetic inheritance to
be aggressive; neo-social-Darwinist assumptions about
schools, society and the future; racist histories)
reductionist (e.g. neo-Malthusian, eco-sexist and eco-racist
and violence-condoning world-views (e.g. racist histories,
gendered histories, narrowly nationalistic histories)
God / Divine Plan / Fate
/ metaphysical reductionist
(e.g. fatalism rather than active citizenship;
salvation dependent upon divine intervention rather than
of Western-centric destiny (e.g. global reach of Western
idea of progress and Western models of development; yet, do
these influential accounts neglect reflexivity and
resistance, including movements of ‘grassroots’
for Future Citizens:
Narrow and broad approaches
Rights and duties as sanctioned by nation
Rights and duties as sanctioned under both
national law and emergent international law (e.g. UN
Convention on the Rights of Children).
Children’s rights narrowly defined.
Children as dependents.
Children’s rights broadly defined.
Towards cultures of partnership.
Democracy narrowly defined.
Learning about democratic institutions.
Passive rather than active citizenship.
Democracy broadly defined.
and for democratic
participation at all levels (e.g. negotiating classroom
Literacy narrowly defined
Literacy broadly defined
(e.g. environmental literacy, conflict resolution literacy,
multimedia literacy, global political literacy).
Sustainability narrowly defined.
Sustainability broadly defined.
Peace narrowly defined (negative peace).
Peace broadly defined (positive peace).
Responsibility narrowly defined (e.g.
‘national self-interest’ utility values).
Responsibility broadly defined (e.g. emergent
ethical concerns with global responsibility and ‘the needs
of future generations’).
Solidarity narrowly defined (‘national
citizenship’ values and nationalistic solidarity).
Solidarity broadly defined (‘global
citizenship’ values and intergenerational solidarity).
the quality has been distinctly uneven.
With some of the latter, there has been a lack of critical
awareness of issues of gender, ageism and Western-centrism, as well
as a tendency to decontextualize and psychologize young people's
dilemmas about their social worlds and the future (Hutchinson,
Worrying trends in adolescent male
homicide rates and in youth suicide rates in late industrial
societies such as the US and Australia, will not be adequately
responded to, for example, by psychologizing them and ‘worrying
less’ but by quality responses.
In Australia since the 1960’s, rates of suicide per 100,000
head of population show the rate of young male suicide has almost
trebled. Over the same
period the rate of young female suicide has doubled (House of
Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs,
in the US, Australia or elsewhere, the promise of 'learned optimism'
for the young in meeting life's crises is an exaggerated one.
It assumes a level playing field.
In pursuing the goal of a psychological prophylactic,
attention can be easily diverted from highly damaging scores made
against educational budgets and social infrastructure, including
child and youth support services.
According to a recent international study of eighteen late
industrial societies, the safety nets for young people are weakest
in the US with Australia a disturbingly close second (UNICEF 1996,
young: contrasting approaches
of systematic research on young people's anticipations of the future
may be traced to the early 1950s.
During that period Gillespie and Allport (1955) carried out a
cross-cultural study of young people from several different
countries. Surveyed in
the early years of the Cold War, most of the youth respondents were
found to be pessimistic as to the possibility of a third world war
being averted during their lifetimes.
However, with a few notable exceptions
such as Elise Boulding's study during the 1970s of New Hampshire
school children (Boulding, 1995), it has not been until recent times
that studies have occurred with an explicit interest in educational
implications, and that have been more open to new ideas from areas
of cross-disciplinary inquiry, such as peace research, gender
studies, environmental studies and futures studies.
Some of this newer research on young people's perceptions of
the future has been inspired by more critical methodological
approaches to researching the views of adults about the future.
Important examples of the latter are the World Images 2000
Project (Ornauer et al., 1976) and the Ontario 2000 project (Livingstone,
The more innovative of the latest
studies of child and youth futures point to possible new ways
forward. With these
studies, there is a highlighting of the need to explore the notion
of ‘futures’ and associated concepts such as 'broadened social
literacies', 'resources of hope' and 'young people's empowerment',
rather than focussing more narrowly on student attitudes via their
concerns for the future. Epistemologically,
there is a shift from an interest in 'predictive or forecasting
values' to 'proactive or applied foresight values'.
Exemplifying the 'predictive values'
style of research are time-lag studies, such as those by Kleiber et
al. (1993), that replicate the pioneering work of Gillespie and
Allport (1955) and seek to identify trends in young people's views
of the future. Illustrating
the newer style of research are studies such as Hutchinson (1993,
1996b), Hicks and
Holden (1995) and Gidley (1997).
With the latter, the interest is not so much in identifying
whether there are trends of increased pessimism or a rising 'sense
of meaningless' among young people but in challenging assumptions
that trends are destiny:
of the future in the Western World often hinge narrowly around
scientific and technological developments, sometimes seen as
beneficial but more often as dystopian.
It is as if science and technology have a life of their own
which the ordinary citizen feels she can neither understand nor
control In the
face of such fears it is increasingly important to focus on people's
images of preferred futures. If
they can be elaborated and envisioned more then perhaps they can
provide the basis for creating a more just and sustainable future
(Hicks & Holden, 1995, p. 51).
young: beyond ‘predictive values’
To illuminate this proposition
further, it is worthwhile briefly describing some relevant research
influenced by Ornauer et al. (1976) in the design of a questionnaire
instrument, the 'Futures Consciousness and the School' Project
received much more significant inspiration from the work of Galtung
(1988) on dialogue techniques in researching and Boulding (1988) and
Ziegler (1989) on 'imaging futures' workshops.
The research involved 650 Australian secondary students.
It entailed a stratified sample of government and Catholic
systemic schools from rural and urban areas, and had a
representative mix in terms of gender and socio-economic background.
A one in four systematic sample of students from the original
sample was invited to participate in small-group dialogue sessions
and futures workshops. The
full text of the questionnaire is contained in Hutchinson (1993).
An outline of
the procedures for the small group dialogues and futures workshops
is given in Hutchinson (1993, 1996b).
The study identified a number of major
themes among young people's concerns about the world and for the
future. They included a
depersonalised and uncaring world; a violent world, and a world
divided between 'haves' and 'have nots'.
Other major concerns related to a mechanised world of largely
oppressive technological change; an environmentally unsustainable
world, and a politically corrupt and deceitful world.
In addition, the study was very much
interested with exploring young people's preferable futures.
A number of significant themes emerged from the small group
dialogues and futures workshop activities.
First, there was found to be a strong strand of technocratic
dreaming in which techno-fix solutions to many life crises tend to
be accepted very uncritically.
Such ways of imaging the future were usually stronger among
boys than girls. Secondly,
there was social imaging related to a demilitarization and
'greening' of science and technology to meet genuine human needs.
Girls rather than boys in their imaging capacities were found
to be more responsive in this respect.
Thirdly, there were images concerned with intergenerational
equity, as well as with a perceived imperative for greater
acceptance of our responsibilities for the needs of future
there was an important strand in imaging concerned with making peace
with people and planet through reconceptualisations of both ethics
and lifestyles. Finally,
there was a strongly expressed need among many young people about
preferred futures in education.
When invited to consider whether there is any point in
visualizing an improved world for the twenty-first century, a
majority of the student respondents were of the opinion that better
opportunities in schools to imagine preferable futures are crucial
for choice and engagement. Large
majorities of both male and female students indicated their support
for learning proactive skills in schools, such as ecological
literacy and conflict resolution literacy (Hutchinson, 1996b,
Although smaller in scope, a follow-up
study by Gidley (1997) has confirmed many of Hutchinson's findings.
However, Gidley's work places particular emphasis on schools
as sites of authentic possibility.
Her preliminary findings suggest that many young people, who
have been through a Steiner system of education, are more likely to
feel confident about being able to contribute in practical ways to
shifting away from their feared futures toward their preferred
futures. She speculates
on possible lessons for more conventional forms of education.
Another illustration may be given with
the 'Visions of the Future' Project conducted by Hicks and Holden
(1995). Based on a
study of 400 UK children aged 7 to 18, this innovative project both
complements the findings of a number of earlier studies and moves
beyond them in some respects. It
brings out particularly clearly variables associated with age and
gender, together with raising important questions of choice and
engagement by teachers, teacher educators and schools.
of the project's findings may be summarized as follows:
First, age is a significant variable in terms of optimism and
pessimism. Among the
children surveyed, it was found that older children were more likely
to be pessimistic in their assumptions about global futures than
younger children. Secondly,
in relation to feared futures a number of salient issues are likely
to stand out in relation to the global
the case of UK children these related to violence and war in the
twenty-first century, with concerns about the environment also high.
Thirdly, whilst girls are generally less likely to be
optimistic about the future than boys, they are also less likely to
embrace uncritically technocratic dreaming or 'glamorous high-tech
solutions to everything'. Finally,
the project discovered that whilst some young people feel confident
to act on a personal level to help create a better future, for many
the social or political literacy skills are lacking.
At the same time, it was found that many young people
acknowledged such a need and would like more information, discussion
and advice within schools in ways of making hope practical.
opportunities for quality responses
A crucial aspect of
a forward-thinking approach to education is the value we attach to
actively listening to young people's hopes and fears for the future:
The images that young people have of the future will help to
shape their aspirations as adult citizens in the next century.
It is important, therefore, that appropriate attention be
paid to their views and to the sort of education that is needed to
prepare them more effectively for the future.
This is a timely task for educators as we approach the new
millennium - a time of transition which can be used to prompt deeper
reflection on beginnings and endings, directions and purposes
(Hicks, 1996, p.143).
we are to enhance the prospects of moving in the twenty-first
century towards more peaceful cultures and more sustainable ways of
living, it is important to encourage foresight and to actively
listen to our young people’s voices on the future.
In too many cases our young people’s hopes and fears are
put at a severe discount, with a failure to address their concerns
responsibly and in empowering ways.
Their hopes and dreams may be marginalized and the need for
an explicit futures dimension in the curriculum may remain
if our young people’s images of the future are discounted, this
probably tells quite a lot about ourselves, our schools, our
societies and our expectations and aspirations not only for the
younger generation but for unborn generations (Eckersley, 1997).
Whether in relation to our schools or other
social institutions, the challenges for quality responses to young
people’s voices on the future are great.
There are, however, significant opportunities for choice and
engagement in taking young people’s needs much more seriously than
at present. Notwithstanding
many negative trends, there are contradictions and opportunities to
build solidarities across the generations and a developing sense of
a global civic society. A
vital challenge for ourselves as educators is whether we not only
acknowledge major difficulties but begin to ‘walk our talk’ in
ways that combine freedom with responsibility and resist
impoverished, violent social futures for our students and successive
generations (Hutchinson, 1996 a,b, 1997 a,b, 1998).
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HUTCHINSON is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Western
Sydney, Australia, in
the Faculty of Social Inquiry.
Previously, he has worked as a curriculum consultant at both
the primary and secondary school levels in areas of social literacy
and alternatives to violence. His
main research and teaching interests relate to issues concerned with
young people and educating for more peaceful, socially just and
environmentally sustainable futures.
He did his PhD on the topic
and the School (University of New England, Australia, 1993).
He is the author, co author or contributing author of several
books on futures education. These
works include: People
Problems and Planet Earth (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982, 2nd
edition 1986), Educating for Peace
(Canberra: Curriculum Development Centre, 1986), Educating
for a Fairer Future (Sydney: Geography Teachers’ Association
& WDTC, 1988), Our Planet
and its People (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1992), Education
beyond Hatred and Fatalism (Malmö, Sweden: School of Education,
Lund University, 1994), New
Thinking for a New Millennium (London: Routledge, 1996), Educating
Beyond Violent Futures (London:
Routledge, 1996), and World
Yearbook of Education: Futures education (London: Kogan Page,
1998). He is a
councillor of the Peace Education Commission and a member of the
World Futures Studies Federation.
Faculty of Social Inquiry and Social Ecology, Locked Bag 1,
University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury, Richmond, NSW 2753,
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