Present Day Utopias? Listening to Alternative Possibilities for Educational Futures
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Educational futures scholars argue that today’s education system is no longer fit for purpose. They argue that major change is needed in response to certain mega-trends beyond education, but schools have failed to keep up with the pace of change. These scholars argue that much of the rhetoric around ‘future focused education’ is superficial and insufficient to generate the radical change required. Educational futures theorist Keri Facer argues that we need to move away from attempting to predict and be ready for the future. Instead we should seek to “understand the present”, to look for new possibilities for our futures in what is happening today. In the research described here, people involved in various forms of alternative education were interviewed. The aim was to explore the ideas, philosophies and practices found in these spaces as a way to investigate what the margins of the education system might have to say to the mainstream. Several interesting themes of value to educational futures discussions were revealed. Firstly, relationships – across multiple contexts – between people, ideas and the environment are central. The second theme is that alternative perspectives on time and trust differ markedly from those in the mainstream. Thirdly, there is a commitment to developing a love of learning that continues throughout life. An additional (and unexpected) important finding was the apparent developmental affordances for the adults working in these centres. The alternative education centres studied had clearly articulated purposes, underpinned by specific philosophies. They were also characterized by the presence of adults able to think in divergent ways about education. This culture, which could be summarized as “thinking for ourselves, thinking with others”, has much to offer a mainstream education system interested in re-imagining itself for new and different futures.