Environmental education (E.E.) has been a very essential institution for the renewal of school life in recent decades. It created and is creating a new educational layer beyond the narrowly utilitarian perception of knowledge, the knowledge that knits the thread of a unambiguous professional development.
It has highlighted and is highlighting a critical and questionable system of values towards industrial culture, technological bliss, consumerism, as at least these appear as prevailing views and practices within the education system and society in general.
It cultivates self-action, initiative, research, concern in students’ thoughts and actions. It is essentially a radical pedagogical current, seeking a more democratic content and an ecological conception of educational institutions.
Of course, the E.E. encounters difficulties. Shows inherent weaknesses. It stumbles on contradictions and regressions. Meets opponents, official or not. It failed to become a majority current. It met “ceilings” in its field of reference in the Lyceum, since here our students are redefined by the dominant logic of examinations and their evolution in higher education.
However, in the current situation – and after overcoming the pandemic – the E.E. must make a qualitative leap. We think she has gone through her teenage phase, with all the introspections and endless theories about its identity.
Its “new” aspirations should include a) the continuous expansion of its quantitative reference to students and teachers, b) its institutional expansion claiming its “perfect shape” by the state, c) its strong and organic connection with the parallel cultural currents that develop in the school (theater, art, literacy, aesthetic education, health education, etc.), d) the diligent and structured cultivation of critical thinking and reflection, connecting its reflections with the initial questions of children and adolescents, with the anxieties of the young but also with the relevant timeless human pursuits, e) the strengthening of the democratic political and ideological physiognomy.
To claim and to conquer the vision of E.E. we can only fight for the big picture, for a “new school of culture and education”. We teachers, have to change ourselves. To “escape” from the complacency of the employee mentality of the formal duties and from the state-limited teaching, which aims unilaterally at the transfer of knowledge to the student.
The many and so many problems of the school and the teachers – which are constantly increasing at this time – should not become a loop in the struggle for a “paradigm” change of the school ecosystem. The emergence of the progressive school for which the teachers have been fighting for time in our country gives social dynamics for the problems, institutionally and functionally. Teachers – who bear the burden of responsibility of E.E. – together with the teachers who connect their school life with some other cultural initiative, they can become yeast for change. At the same time, it is necessary to transform the collective educational movement into an educational current, in order to effectively embrace the creative forces of society. After all, as Dimitris Glinos emphasized, “education is not a matter of knowledge, it is a matter of life”!