30 SES 02 A, Young People's Views on Agency, Change and Future
Education for Sustainable Development aims to promote competencies enabling students shaping a better (more sustainable) future. The concept is criticised with regard to instrumentalisation of students (Jickling, 1992; Jickling & Wals, 2008; more general: Amsler & Facer, 2017). Further it reproduces a neoliberal worldview within students are addressed mainly as comsumers (Dahlbeck, 2014). Both aspects refer to a non-political understanding of education.
These theoretical points of criticism are also reflected on the empirical level: Zeyer & Roth (2013) describe that young people differentiate between the “real world” and the “ideal world” when discussing sustainability related topics: Although sustainability is considered as a desirable goal, changes for an improvement would be only possible in an “ideal world” (in which moral can be the basis for actions). In the “real world”, neoliberal market logics and the selfishness of people are dominant and unavoidable. As the two worlds are disconnected from each other, there is no hope for any improvement. Similar findings are obtained by the study of Holfelder (2017). The future of the world is largely perceived as predetermined non-sustainable and non-shapeable by own actions. Further it seems to be an uninhabited place, future generations (one core idea of sustainability) are not mentioned. In contrast, the interviewed students feel only self-efficient regarding their own (near) future. Leccardi (2012) speaks of a “crisis of the future”: Whereas the generation of babyboomers (born in the 1960s) was united by a positive vision of the future, the generation of the millennials does not share such a vision. Either you can be prepared for an unknown and contingent future by being flexible through acquired competencies (“future without a project”) or you can concentrate on short term projects in which the future is perceived as an “extended present”.
Considering concepts of future education, education is supposed to build a connection between probable futures (as a continuation of the present) and desirable futures (mainly expressed in visions or utopias) (Facer, 2016): Possible futures build a connection between those two poles as they do ask for real (possible) alternatives in the present heading towards the guiding vision (e.g. sustainability). Being able to think and imagine alternatives must be considered as one starting point.
The purpose of this study is the reconstruction of latent structures of meaning from open group discussions conducted with young people from Germany (aged 16-19 years). Those structures represent social norms shaping our awareness of reality. By analyzing the latent structures of meaning, questions regarding worldviews and views on humans are addressed. Further questions concern the relation between the present and future people. The results of the analysis are discussed in terms of their transformation potential.
The contribution is based on a re-analyzation of fifteen open group discussions conducted with young people in Germany (aged 16-19 years, Upper Secondary Level). The initiating question was “When you think about future what comes into your mind?” The method of group discussion was chosen as the analysis of the negotiation of a topic within a group (producing a group opinion) allows conclusions about latent structures (Bohnsack, 2010). The aim of the first analysis is the reconstruction of the implicit knowledge upon which the young people orientate themselves discussing sustainability related topics. This is done by the documentary method (Bohnsack, Pfaff & Weller, 2010). In contrast to implicit orientational knowledge based on personal experiences, the aim of this re-analysation is rather the understanding of social norms as well as the understanding of the world views and human image. For this focus a qualitative and reconstructive method is necessary as well but with another focus. The chosen method (objective hermeneutics) is intended for the reconstruction of such latent structures of meaning (Oevermann et al., 1987). It presents a sequential method as the contributions to the discussion are analyzed in their mutual reference. Those structures represent social norms shaping our awareness of reality.
The analysis is still in progress. The first findings show that the reconstructed latent structures of meaning do not allow any idea of an alternative: The world order (e.g. the economic system) is accepted as given, so is the human image and the human-nature-relation: Humans are considered as independent individuals destroying their environment. The only change could come from a different consumer behavior, but this will not happen as humans are egoistic. Naturalistic justifications do have a high acceptance within the groups (e.g. the selfish man securing his own survival) whereas attempts for alternative ideas or interpretation are given nearly no acceptance. Within those structures it is understandable that sustainability is discussed as a non-real utopian idea. The analysis underlines the importance of reconsidering the concept of ESD and taking the mentioned critique seriously. When addressing students as independent individuals (e.g. as consumers), the same structures of meaning are addressed which inhibit the thinking of alternatives.
Amsler, S. & Facer, K. (2017) Contesting anticipatory regimes in education: exploring alternative educational orientations to the future. Futures: The Journal of Policy, Planning and Future Studies. Bohnsack, R.; Pfaff, N. & Weller, W. (2010). Reconstructive Research and Documentary Method in Brazilian and German Educational Science – An Introduction. In R. Bohnsack, N. Pfaff & W. Weller (eds.) Qualitative analysis and documentary method in international educational research (pp. 99-124). Opladen: B. Budrich. Bohnsack, R (2010). Documentary Method and Group Discussion. In R. Bohnsack, N. Pfaff & W. Weller (eds.) Qualitative analysis and documentary method in international educational research (pp. 7-40). Opladen: B. Budrich. Dahlbeck, J. (2014). Hope and fear in education for sustainable development. Critical Studies in Education, 55(2), 154–169. Facer, K. (2016). Using the Future in Education: Creating Space for Openness, Hope and Novelty. In H. E. Lees & N. Noddings (Eds.), The Palgrave International Handbook of Alternative Education (pp. 63-78). London: Springer Nature. Holfelder, A.-K. (2017). Implicit knowledge in the context of ESD: Students’ orientations towards sustainability related topics. Manuscript under review. Jickling, B. (1992). Why I don't want my children to be educated for sustainable development. Journal of Environmental Education, 23(4), 5–8. Jickling, B., & Wals, A. E. J. (2008). Globalization and environmental education: looking beyond sustainable development. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 40(1), 1–21. Leccardi, C. (2012) Young People’s Representations of the Future and the Acceleration of Time. A Generational Approach, in: Diskurs Kindheits- und Jugendforschung, 7 (1), 59–73. Oevermann, U.; Allert, T.; Konau, E. & Krambeck, J. (1987). Structures of meaning and objective Hermeneutics. In V. Meja, D. Misgeld & N. Stehr (eds.). Modern German sociology (pp.436-447). New York: Columbia University Press. Zeyer, A., & Roth, W.-M. (2013). Post-ecological discourse in the making. Public Understanding of Science, 22(1), 33–48.
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