Sustainability and higher education: From arborescent to rhizomatic thinking

Le Grange L.L.L. (2011)


Currently, global society is delicately poised on a civilisational threshold similar to that of the feudal era. This is a time when outmoded institutions, values, and systems of thought and their associated dogmas are ripe for transcendence by more relevant systems of organization and knowledge (Davidson, 2000). The foundations of the modern era (including modern educational institutions) are under sharp scrutiny; the fragmentation of nature, society and self is evidence of the cracks in the foundations. In times of crises old questions often come to the fore. For example, as environmental problems reach unprecedented levels the perennial existential question of how we should live is emerging once more. So too are educational questions such as what and how we should learn. But, times of crises also present new opportunities, create fresh imaginings and alternative meanings, metaphors and languages. In this paper I wish to appraise sustainability (and its epithets such as development) as a new discourse that emerged in the late 20th century in response to the psycho-socio-environmental crises of the time. I shall also examine the (in)capacity of disciplinary knowledge and traditional scholarship to respond to the complex and pressing problems of contemporary society. Finally, I will critically discuss the role that new modes of knowledge production, an expanded view of scholarship and alternative metaphors might play in (re)imagining the university's role in sustainability education. © 2009 The Author. Educational Philosophy and Theory © 2009 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia.

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