Can we still educate for the world as it is?

Recently a controversy opposed environmental NGOs and the BNP Paribas bank regarding the bank’s investment into fossil energies. The CSR director tried to close the controversy by explaining: “we finance the world as it is.”

If we do so, then how can we reasonably expect to change it? The same could be asked for education: are we educating children to live in the world as it is in the same way we (the banks) are financing the world as it is? in other words, can we still educate for the world as it is?

This question resonates with the latest actions undertaken by young people all over the world against climate change or feminicides. Aren’t young people claiming for being educated / financing a world as they want them to be?

(all rights reserved)

(all rights reserved)

Our incapacity to listen to them is certainly deeply rooted in the practices of BNP Paribas and all other banking and political institutions, i.e. using people’s deposits and votes to finance the world as it is.

Martha Nussbaum once said (Cultivating Humanity, 1998) that “we produce all too many citizens whose imaginations never step out of the counting house”. How do we step out? According to Nussbaum, we need Socratic citizens who are capable of thinking for themselves and arguing with tradition. It goes back to key questions raised by Margaret Mead back in 1969 (Culture and Commitment): Can I commit my life to anything? Is there anything in human cultures as they exist today worth saving, worth committing myself to?

In their Capability approach theory, Sen and Nussbaum stated that freedom to achieve well-being is a matter of what people are able to do and to be. Young people think the same. In a recent poll a 51 percent of Americans ages 18-29 said their generation can change the world. The same result was registered in France.

This is certainly a good moment to listen more carefully to what young people say and more importantly do (or can do).  One of the key principles of child participation, elaborated by Roger Hart, was that the highest level of child participation (*) should be “Child initiated, Shared Decisions with Adults (Children’s Participation, 1997). This is what Greta Thunberg and her friends worldwide are claiming for.

(* At this level of participation, banks shouldn’t be authorized any longer to finance the world as it is…)

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