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Expository Essay on Sustainability in Education

To begin with, the movement towards “sustainable community” has reached unbelievable level of relevance and popularity today. Thus, civilized humanity even witnessed the appearance of issue’s sub-categories. This paper deals with sustainability in education, as appropriate point seems to be the core one among others, considering its fundamental meaning. Talking about the thesis, it is stated that current approach to sustainability in educational institutionsis more like to have the nature of social trend instead of philosophical ideology as it should be. The aim of this work is to support noted thesis by drawing the analogues between scholars’ views and writer’s own life experience.

To start the body of this paper, some background should be mentioned about sustainability in education. In fact, the appearance of appropriate movement takes its roots from June 1992 when J. Kerry and T. Heinz, as official representatives, attended U.N. Rio Summit devoted the problems of environment and development. After the return, these two public activists founded “Second Nature” group directly specialized in brining sustainable ideas to U.S. universities and colleges. By having the impact to universities’ and colleges’ presidents, soon “American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment” was signed by more than 600 participants. One more significant event took place in 2005, when nine higher-education associations teamed up to create the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium. Peter Woods wrote: “Like Second Nature, they were aimed to make “education for sustainable development” the priority for American higher education. The HEASC announcement was timed for a “United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development,” from 2005 to 2014” (Wood, p.1). As the result of social interconnections, the trend towards sustainability in campuses became the subject of wide discussions and scholar researches. Articles on appropriate topic were published in so respectful editions as: Chronicle of Higher Education, University Business, Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chicago News Tribune, Los Angeles Times etc. By focusing on campuses sustainable efforts, each of this mass-media sources impacted much to the promotion of idea. Today, more than several dozens of organizations are tied with the same goal: the University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF), the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD), the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium (HEASC), and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) have emerged to institutionalize sustainability in higher education etc.(Sherman, p.188).

Therefore, the scale of social phenomena is incredibly impressive. However, there is still not enough ground to talk about real conscious changes of mentality and life priorities among students. For example, Daniel B. Sherman states that “sustainability” is more treated like the list of subscribed practices instead of ideology among students (Sherman, p.189). Thereby, it is often just associated to reducing of carbon emissions or recycling within borders of a campusonly. In his turn, Peter Wood investigated social nature of sustainability in campuses, by making the parallels with diversity movement among students. That what he mentioned at this part: “The pursuit of diversity on campuses remains a highly visible priority, but it is being subtly demoted by enthusiasm for sustainability. …Diversity and sustainability are the two most characteristic ideas of the modern academy. Diversity asks us to focus on group identity and personal affiliation, and it puts race at the center of the discussion. Sustainability asks us to focus on humanity’s use of natural resources, and it puts climate at the center of discussion” (Wood, p.1). In this regard, the writer emphasizes, sustainability is more like to be “sociological” fashion or trend. Pretty interesting research was conducted by the group of scholars’ from San Diego State University, who have conducted social survey among more than 300 students. The question to answer was “What is the first phrase or word they associate with sustainability?”. The responses were divided as follows:

According to the authors, appropriate answers show that in majority students incorrectly perceive the meaning of sustainability, what leads to ignorance or values and virtues promoted by this ideology.One more supporter of misconnection in students’ understanding of sustainability is already mentioned Daniel B. Sherman, who once expressed next idea: “Sustainability is a “should” on U.S. college campuses today. … Carried out practices are certainly worthy of encouragement, but they can also constitute an intellectual shortcut around the more complex, pedagogically rich relationship between natural limits and value systems that underlies the human impact on the environment”(Sherman, p.189).

Being clear with some scholars’ views on the issue of “sustainability in education”,it is time to go to my own experience on appropriate topic. When I was in high school, our student community witnessed active implementation of sustainable program. As usually, it included active outreach on issue with young people, activities directed to promote recycling, buying organic products, carbon emissions reducing, landscaping etc.. Honestly, I was incredibly happy to see such transformations in my school, as I tend to consider myself not indifferent to the problems of environment from early childhood. I was pleased even more to find out that appropriate initiative was actively supported and appreciated by the majority of our studentscommunity. However, a weeks later, one insignificant event has happened, and it forced me to rethink my understanding of real sustainability. Once, me and my classmate were going home after classes. It is important that I considered her to be one of the most active members of sustainable movement in our school. By passing several streets, I noticed that she threw some candy wrapper just on the road. When she noticed my surprised and condemning look, she said the words I did not expect to hear definitely: “Be cool. We are not at school”. This was the breaking point to me.In addition, in a few weeks more, I learnt that some of our sustainable activists bought huge SUVs for everyday driving. From that time, it is absolutely clear that people have to distinguish so called “sustainability” as social fashion and “sustainability” as real philosophic ideology, which is centered around human’s responsibilities.

To sum up, basing on my own experiences and scientific views, it should be concluded that the potential of educational field is yet still not fully used to promote and instill sustainable values. In this regard, it would be reasonable to carry out a list of curriculum measures to impact the formation of students’ consciousness on appropriate issues. It is wrong to deny that students communities have already experienced serious changes in their views to problems of environment. However, it is still not enough to talk about contemporary sustainability in education as the long-term maintenance of responsibility, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use.

Works cited

Sherman, Daniel. “Sustainability: What’s the big idea?”. Web 18 Feb. 2012. http://mobilizingstem.wceruw.org/documents-June/Sherman%20SustainabilityTheBigIdea.pdf
Sustainability Across the Curriculum Leadership Workshop. AASHE, San Diego State University, July 12-13, 2007.
Wood, Peter. “From diversity to sustainability: How campus ideology is born”. Web 18 Feb. 2012. http://chronicle.com/article/From-Diversity-to/124773/