TOWARDS THE DECONSTRUCTION OF ANTHROPOCENTRIC SCHOOL CURRICULA
Helen Osieja Teaching and Learning Consultant (SWEDEN)
The term "deconstruction" was coined by the French author and philosopher Jacques Derrida in the 1960s. It refers to the modification of the structures, criteria, and concepts accepted as the ultimate truth, because according to this philosopher, truth is a dynamic concept that changes throughout the times. For Derrida, by defining a concept, we do not allow for change. By deconstructing concepts we allow for their evolution. The term "anthropocentric" refers to the attitude that man is the center of the universe, an idea legitimized by the Bible.
Due to the fact that in the Western world it was originally the Church who had a monopoly of education, the values, attitudes and paradigms which were- and even nowadays- are taught in schools, are based on the postulate of the Bible that God gave man, its ultimate creature, the authority over all other forms of life on Earth. Though education has become secular in most Western countries, the underlying attitude of human superiority has remained the same. The environmental and social consequences of this attitude have been dire. In spite of the fact that science has proven that man, as well as all other life forms on Earth, are the product of an evolutionary process and that there has to be an equilibrium among different forms of life if ecosystems are to survive, the scientific perspective has had a very limited impact, if at all, on other disciplines of study. School curricula in most countries are still anthropocentric- that is, based on the premise that humankind is the master species of the planet Earth, and designed to serve the goals of the empowered elites. The impacts of unbridled human activity on particular ecosystems and the biosphere in general have been systematically understated, or in the worst of cases, altogether ignored.
One of the best examples of an anthropocentric curriculum is the study of international trade and economics. Most economic theories consider the immediate benefits of international trade in macroeconomic terms. The main flaw of such an approach is that the impacts of deregulated economic activity on nature and indigenous communities have been proven very harmful in terms of environmental and social degradation. The deforestation of the Amazon for purely economic reasons -the destruction of an ecosystem the size of the territories of France, Spain and Portugal combined- has had very destructive effects which go beyond the borders of Brazil. The author proposes a revision or deconstruction of school curricula which are based more on science and facts and less on the needs of powerful elites and on religious dogmas.
Education in the 21st century has to adapt to global social change and aim at innovation, sustainability and development. Climate change, deforestation, the extinction of plant and animal species, dire pollution and drought are consequences of unfettered human economic activity. As long as school curricula remain anthropocentric, there is little hope for humanity to face those enormous challenges. Holistic school curricula, in contrast to anthropocentric ones, consider all aspects, not just the ones which prepare students for fitting into society and for a lucrative career. Only holistic school curricula can prepare the citizens of the future for the new challenges facing coming generations. School curricula cannot be static in a highly dynamic world, and cannot be anthropocentric if they aim at sustainable development.