Pedagogies of Justice
What is a Pedagogy of Justice?
“The child has one hundred languages, but they steal ninety-nine of them” Loris Malaguzzi
How do you know climate change is happening? Do you have a lived experience of climate change, or do you think you know because the media and science publications tell you so? Without lived experience of climate change, and without an engagement with communities that are frontliners in the battle against climate crisis, how can anyone have the holistic understanding required to act, collectively and positively?
Many minority groups around the world have their own unique climate science and knowledge of climate action, based on lived experience of nature, and its current degradation. Western science and climate politics are colonial narratives that often claim superiority or priority, while other forms of knowledge are often labelled 'alternative' in the public arena. What does the word 'alternative' even mean? There is no such thing as alternative education, alternative science or alternative ways of learning. Only knowledge grounded on justice matters. The root of the current planetary crisis is not climate change, deforestation or water scarcity. The root of the problem is environmental and social injustice.
Guardians Worldwide implements an ethos—not a framework— which we call Pedagogies of Justice. Everything we teach and learn, every knowledge and insight that we are privileged to offer and share, is ultimately based on the premise that we can only know, we can only act, if we do so with justice.
Take climate change. Climate change happens naturally as the Earth’s orbit around the sun shifts gradually, causing global freezing and global warming to happen over periods roughly every 100,000 years. The shift in 4+ degrees Celsius, which naturally occurs every 100,000 years, has occurred in only 100 years as a result of anthropogenic climate change. Can we therefore call the current event 'climate change'? The answer is no. What is happening is not climate change but something else.
Name the issue for what it is.
To address the current environmental, social and educational crises, we must stop using terms that are either purely conceptual, abstract, academic, or which are underpinned by colonial linguistic and discursive narratives. The event we are facing here is not another climate change: it is a collapse of life systems as we know them. At the heart of the current predicament is the quest for justice. Climate and nature justice must be at the core of everything we do. Every school, whether it is formal school, forest school or river school, should act from justice. With love and care for a fair and regenerative future.
Why isn’t climate change taught and communicated as a quest concerning justice? Why is climate change taught and explained in the media as a scientific problem? Why is justice not at the heart of how we learn and communicate?
Formal education is no good. It is normative. Systems of education do not educate but normalise. Do as the system does. That is Education. Create a framework. Serve the interest of the institution or organisations that buys and sells knowledge. From the inception of the word-- Latin in its root and colonial in its history-- Education is the mass production of learning. Yet learning is also a nature-centred and loving process, a spiritual journey aligned with the growth, spread, change and transformation of life.
As the saying goes: You cannot change the Masters house with the Master’s tools. Within formal education, it is impossible to address injustice, because injustice is embedded in the fabric of how we are taught at schools and universities. In other words, Education is often the instrument of normalised injustice. Higher Education, for instance, is an industry that often generates student debt, pension crisis, institutionalised racism, research funding bias, underpaid or unpaid staff, casual contracts, lack of diversity and inclusivity across establishments. Wherever you look, Higher Education is often the normalisation of injustice.
Yet when Learning and Environment are synonymous; when natural environments become the universe of reference for learning and teaching, when nature is our university, or rather, pluriversity, then Nature is teacher. Loss of connection with Nature is therefore a threat to richer ways of generating and acquiring knowledge. Loss of natural environments poses threats to the bio and neuro-diversity of knowledge.
No Nature equals No Learning. No Nature equals ignorance, and ignorance breeds injustice.
We believe that it is vital to unlearn what nurseries, schools and universities have taught: frameworks and narratives based on disconnection from Nature. We believe that, to gain awareness and consciousness of earth systems, of the interconnected of being, as opposed to the individualism of accumulated information, we need to share and offer lived and traditional learnings imparted by knowledge keepers that are one with Nature.
We must learn as wild rivers, as children, as Indigenous peoples, as mycelium, as makers and creatives, as humble soil. Learn from a criminal in jail, from a refugee in a camp, from a homeless person, from a victim of sex trafficking, from a child, from a disabled person, from a beehive, from a shark, from stones. Can you learn from those who are not usually acknowledged as knowledge keepers in a system of normalised injustice, from those who are made invisible or even persecuted for their non-conventional wisdoms? And if the answer is yes, which it is, then what kind of pedagogy would emerge for the future?
Guardians Worldwide does not seek learning according to a model, because models only breed imposed systems of learning. We learn by imagining a constellation of systems that offer us opportunities to connect and achieve reciprocity. The basis of justice is right there. Our Pedagogies of Justice are planted on reciprocity and collective responsibility: core pillars of justice. Our effort is to spread, not to grow. What our learning spreads is the conviction that a guardian, whether human or not-human, whether organic or inorganic, is someone who carries the weight of life—of love—and shares the weight along the journey. We believe in journeys where weighty lessons are carried-- not so much in light, artificial learning and training processes.
It is not enough to say that Indigenous Peoples are guardians and custodians of forest, river and climate. The responsibility to care for planet is one we must all carry. Justice is the practice that we all must commit to in a collective, bottom-up effort. Thus, in order to create spaces of shared responsibility and reciprocity, we believe in the need to constellate our spaces of learning, to connect and spread, like mycelium.
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