A.K. Lautensach

University of Northern British Columbia (CANADA)
While the priorities in curriculum design have long been informed by a wide diversity of views and concerns, considerations of human security have not played a prominent role in the process. This has now changed with the advent of global environmental crises that threaten human security in many respects and that are evidently driven by the ecological overshoot of the human species. Despite the contributions of diverse theoretical approaches, most current efforts to revise curriculum at schools and universities do not meet this new challenge. This essay will review some likely explanations for that persistent ‘failure of education’, among them the sequestration of scientific knowledge behind disciplinary boundaries that renders it inaccessible to most learners. I will suggest that an important source of remedial teaching strategies can be found in the life sciences, especially ecology and evolution. This follows from the prominent role that biological concepts play in forming the essential basis of human security. However, disciplinary barriers and the flight into scientific theory and textbook models as it often occurs in science education offer little help to convince the learner of the relevance of human security thinking to future communities. I suggest three pedagogical strategies that can mitigate this problem. First, education across the curriculum must embrace human security thinking and transcend disciplinary boundaries that still keep many subjects (such as economics) and topic areas blissfully isolated from scientific reality. The need for such holistic and transdisciplinary education manifests most clearly at the secondary and postsecondary levels. Secondly, curriculum needs to place greater emphasis on ethics and moral reasoning and on their connections to each discipline and its visions of ‘progress’. Thirdly, the ways in which learners construct ideas about ‘human nature’ should move from the implicit realm to the explicit to rationalise shared patterns of human behaviour that significantly affect human security. All three strategies draw considerable support from biological concepts that form the basis of human security. The importance of human biology in this context suggests a prominent role, particularly of ecological concepts, in the development of transdisciplinary curriculum. Biology and ethics form the fertile ground on which learners cultivate and deliberate their visions of a better world and possible avenues towards them. The common goal of those strategies is that the learner develops an ecologically informed vision of progress that will serve as the basis for a comprehensive understanding of human security as a multifaceted concept with a clear hierarchical network of determinants, and to apply that understanding to the real world as it presents to the learner. This covers diverse cultural views as well as disciplinary perspectives. Using appropriate teaching methodologies this can be accomplished at diverse grade levels from primary grades through university. On that basis the learner will be empowered to contribute towards truly ‘sustainable development’ and the survival of civilised humanity under an acceptable measure of security.