Global Humanism: An Educational Paradigm
Prof. Joel Spring, Professor at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York
Currently, global school policies are dominated by economists wanting to prepare children for work in multinational corporations through a skills-based curriculum and measured by international and national tests. Based on fallacious theories of human capital dating from the 1950s, global schools are supposed to grind out workers and consumers for a throw-away society with its endless products that pollute and destroy the very planet we live on. Preschools are turning into training camps for teaching children values wanted by employers with their quality are measured by their contribution to economic growth. Education has become an economic investment stripped of knowledge that might add meaning to a person’s life, support social justice and save the planet.1
As defined by N'Dri Therese Assie-Lumumba, global humanism would displace this economic orientation with one in which humans do not act like the supreme rulers of earth and are taught to understand their relationship to others and the environment. This is what I call an “Education for a Long Life and Happy Life.”2 In this paradigm, the major question for global education policies is: What can be taught that will enhance the quality of human life, improve the possibilities for people to be happy and contribute to longevity? In part, I argue, this education should be to improve how humans relate to each other, other species and the planet.
This education paradigm reflects the way many indigenous cultures see the world through a holistic lens that considers human existence as interrelated to a community of people, other species and mother earth. Missing from the education proposals of many economists who emphasize economic growth are calls for an environmental education that considers the impact of economic development on the biosphere. The concept of the biosphere, which is a concept often missing from economic models of education and economic growth, is a key element of environmental education introduced by Vladimir Vernadsky in his 1926 book The Biosphere. He criticized Western science for trying to understand nature by breaking it down into smaller and smaller parts. 3 Vernadsky declared, “Basically man cannot be separated from it [biosphere]; it is only now that this indissolubility begins to appear clearly and in precise terms before us . . . Actually no living organism exists on earth in a state of freedom.” 4 Vernadsky asserted, “All organisms are connected indissolubly and uninterruptedly, first of all through nutrition and respiration, with the circumambient material and energetic medium.” 5
Unless current education policies understand the shortcomings of economic domination of school policies then we may face a dying planet with workers having been socialized in schools to fit into and work in corporate structures without any understanding of the impact of consumer capitalism on the quality of their lives. Economic domination of school policies results in personal lives becoming mere tools for corporate profits and consumption of useless products as the planet dies.
1. Joel Spring, The Economization of Education (New York: Routledge, 2015).
2. Joel Spring, A New Paradigm for Global School Systems: Education for a Long and Happy Life (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007).
3. Lynton Keith Caldwell, International Environmental Policy From the Twentieth to the Twenty-First Century: Third Edition (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1996), pp. 24-25.
4. As quoted in Caldwell, p. 26.
5. Ibid., p. 26.