Presentation to the School of Architecture, University of Nottingham, 2010


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Building Sustainable Communities with Young People and their Families: Environmental Change, Cultural Change?

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  • Andrea Wheeler Describe my ESRC project Workshops – my approach (theory and methods) and what has emerged (my findings). The question of radical lifestyle change, citizenship and humanities perspectives Future research and collaborations
  • The context. the title of it is: How can we design schools as better learning spaces and to encourage sustainable behaviour? Co-design methodologies and sustainable communities.
  • However, different communities will have different resources to tackle climate change and different problems to solve, and whilst there is growing evidence that in order to normalise sustainable behaviours and for change to be lasting, it can only develop from within communities; difficult tensions exist. Moreover, in such Government programmes, there is a question – whether voiced or not – of responsibility – state or individual and ownership: whose community is it, whose education is it?
  • Andrea Wheeler
  • Andrea Wheeler Tim Jackson
  • Andrea Wheeler Tim Jackson
  • Andrea Wheeler Tim Jackson
  • Andrea Wheeler Tim Jackson
  • This is more typically of workshops (describe) – discussion (and the oppotunity!) Year 7s Girls grammar (high performing) Eco-Group
  • This wasn’t the easiest group – boy talking dominated (and did the filming) first of all he want to ‘do architecture’ , draw plans, ruler, went to the teachers class to get some magazines about architecture so he could copy some idea – and all others were quiet. When the girl does talk (which she didn’t when he was there) it was interesting …a sustainable school should be modern, for everyone, those in wheelchairs. They won’t believe I’m not a teacher, much more suspicious – which is why we need to criticise educational practices – is it ethical to build new schools based on old teaching practices (if this is what it does to the children?).
  • These are two plays – the girls designed a school with a roof they could sit out on, they also joined the neighbouring girls and boys schools, and the roof opened in sunny days (last performances) they wrote the plays to perform their designs – my method was developing (but this isn’t improvision or undirected) I’ve asked for a script and a play about the design (not the same energy) – or reality (truth of feeling)
  • Discussions bring out themes
  • Andrea Wheeler Biesta argues that there are three things education can do. These dimensions of education he defines as: qualification, socialisation and subjectification. Education can give qualification as knowledge, skills and values. It can socialise, helping people to become part of exisiting social, cultural and political orders; and, for example, it can allow children to feel part of family or religious traditions. Education can also contribute to how children become human beings. Whilst good education combines all three, the third dimension – subjectification – (becoming human) is what he argues can really be called education (the others are just ‘schooling’). For Biesta this also clarifies some of the problems with the new school building programmes. The BSF programme uses the language of learning, and specifically the aim of transforming learning, but it does not ask learning for what? For Biesta, it is this dimension of subjectification that is now important for education, both for education (including Education for Sustainable Development) and for the new school building programmes. This third dimension of education, subjectification, is influenced by his reading of the Modern philosophical tradition starting with Kant and where Kant argues that the human being can only become a free thinker through education. There is a problem with this definition of what it is to be human (as many subsequent philosophers have suggested) in that it leads to the question of our relationship to those that are not, or not yet, ‘rational beings’ and the question of difference. Biesta’s educational philosophy thus also draws on the work of Levinas and his notion of uniqueness, and to Alphonso Lingis and his notion of community, to address difference (but not to similarly contemporary French feminist philosophers). We do not argue against the importance of practices of socialisation, or the need to raise questions about and rethink the purposes of socialising curricula, since they equip students with the cultural tools needed for participation in particular forms of life. However, such concern does obscure another kind of curriculum question, whether a linear understanding of the educational process and hence an ends-orientated understanding of education, that is education as socialisation/ enculturation, is the only understanding of education that is possible. The idea of an alternative understanding of the educational process, embodied in the logic of emergence, and in new notions of school community is another possibility.
  • Andrea Wheeler
  • Andrea Wheeler Tim Jackson
  • Andrea Wheeler In a world of finite resources and great disparities of wealth, we will all, sooner or later, have to be able to reflect on the factors driving our demands, and confront tensions between excessive consumption – needless consumption – and sustainable behaviour. However, for as long as messages from the high street, from consumer culture, point in one direction and public education and information campaigns (both by government and lobbying groups) point in the other, sustainable lifestyles will be rejected. Architects are all too aware of their contribution to this state of affairs, to this culture of consumption and endless reinvention of the new, and educators have equally criticised education as simply reproducing disadvantage. The ethical challenge we have now is how we can alleviate poverty and reverse our dependence on excessive consumption, and at the same time maintain sufficient levels of well-being. We also need to disentangle these arguments from historical communism which is traditionally seen as the only alternative to consumerism. Property and material wealth provide identity, social status and belonging. For young people, especially teenagers, satisfying their need for new consumer goods gives both status and satisfaction, albeit fleeting. Manufacturers are keen to exploit such social needs through their continuous production and promotion of novel consumer products, but, in deprived communities, this has very real consequences for the health, well-being and life chances of young people. I f we are to adapt to climate change, we need to explore ways of living that reflect our ecologically constrained reality. We need ways of living that are not based on global inequality, and that are liberated from the idea that increasing material consumption means economic stability. Education is a primary agent for lifestyle change, but, to do this, education needs to be put to work to address cultural change. The economist Simon Dietz has suggested that, to adapt to climate change, we will have to develop alternative economic structures, which he suggests could be driven by a theory of capabilities (Dietz, 2008). These structures would facilitate, rather than limit, different sorts of community, different ways of sharing. Encouraging sustainable behaviour is a question of how we are in the world and of our relationship with nature and others. Furthermore, it is a pedagogical question, one aimed at how we engage with others, and how we can learn to develop ethical relationships between ourselves, within our social groups and with others across the globe. It is a question of how we can build communities that foster a different type of ethics (Biesta, 2009), and, a s teachers and architects, how we might lead that change. We have to ask whether such change is a problem that can be solved through design (in the broadest sense of planning to achieve an objective), or whether design is the problem (Hill, 2008). We should also have a much needed conversation with policy makers, about whether it is a matter of individual behaviour or a question for society.
  • Presentation to the School of Architecture, University of Nottingham, 2010

    1. 1. Building SustainableCommunities with Young Peopleand their Families:Environmental Change, CulturalChange?Dr. Andrea Wheeler 1
    2. 2. Outline• 3 YEAR UKERC/ESRC Funded Research Project (RES-152-27-0001)• WORKSHOPS, theory, methods, findings.• EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHIES, CITIZENSHIP, ETHICS AND RADICAL LIFESTYLE CHANGE• FUTURE RESEARCH: Directions and potential collaborations. 2 2
    3. 3. Transforming Education, andEncourage Sustainable LifestylesSustainable development will notjust be a subject in the classroom:it will be in its bricks and mortarand the way the school uses andeven generates its own power. Ourstudents won’t just be told aboutsustainable development, they willsee and work within it: a living,learning place in which to explorewhat a sustainable lifestyle means. St Francis of Assisi Academy,(Blair, 2004). Liverpool, Dining HallTony Blair, Speech on Climate Change, 14September 2004. 3
    4. 4. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENTCOMMISSION (SDC) ON SCHOOLDESIGN•The UK Sustainable DevelopmentCommission argues that the Building Schoolsfor the Future programme represents anopportunity to make a radical impact onchildren’s understanding and experience ofsustainable development, the opportunity isbeing missued.•The SDC is also critical of the Government’sexisting strategies and assessment tools(BREEAM schools) developed by the BuildingResearch Establishment (BRE), arguing thatthe bigger picture has not been grasped. St Francis of Assisi Academy, Liverpool, Dining Hall 4
    5. 5. The More Recent Policy Focus onCommunity InitiativesAt the Local Government Association annualconference in Bournemouth, July 2006, Ed Milibandmade a speech linking low carbon lifestyles andcommunity action initiatives, entitled, "Powerdevolved is energy released" where he argued thatdevolving power to communities is essential: ‘If weare to meet environmental challenges’, he stated ‘…itwill require the energy and innovation of localcommunities and citizens, not just the determinationof international negotiators to come to agreements’(Miliband, 2006).Milliband, D (2006) "Power devolved is energy released"Local Government Association Annual Conference, Bournemouth, 4thJuly 2006 (last accessed September 2009)DEFRA (2010) Mobilising individual behavioural changethrough community initiatives: Lessons for Climate Change 5
    6. 6. Sustainable behaviour and sustainablelifestyles: an ethical dilemma oreducational challenge?Wheeler, Andrea (2009) “The Ethical Dilemma of LifestyleChange: Designing for sustainable schools and sustainablecitizenship”. Les ateliers de léthique, 4(1), 140-155.Wheeler, Andrea (2008) "Building Sustainable Schools: Areplaces of social interaction more important than classrooms?" InExploring Avenues to Interdisciplinary Research: From Cross- toMulti- to Inter-disciplinarity, Maria Karanika-Murray and RolfWiesemes (eds.) Nottingham University Press, 2008. 6
    7. 7. 7
    8. 8. Design Workshops with Children – Year 6 Sustainable School Design, Team Project (1) 8 8
    9. 9. The Teaching Problem How do you explore a different relationship, a non-exploitative, non-appropriative relation to the environment and to others, with young people? How to you get young people to behave responsibly towards a broader and future other whose world we cannot know and where their/our collective action has no immediate or apparent effect?Elvis ‘Look-a-Like-e’ Teacher, Year 8 9 9Student Drawing
    10. 10. Theory If sustainable development is to be encouraged honestly and effectively, young people will have to enter into a discussion of community, relation, social cohesion and all the political and philosophical complexities this entails. We need some very different ways of both teaching and designing in the 21st century, if we are to address the social and environmental problems that climate change will bring.Scott, William A. Gert (2009) ‘Critiquing the Idea of a SustainableSchool as a model and catalyst for change’ Lecture as part of theTransforming Our Schools series, The University of Nottingham.Online at: 10
    11. 11. Educational Philosophy“What if we no longer assume that we canknow the essence and nature of the humanbeing? – or, if we treat the question of what itmeans to be human as a radically openquestion, a question that can only beanswered by engaging in education ratherthan as a question that needs to be answeredbefore we can engage in education’”(Biesta,2006: 4-5).Biesta, Gert (2006) Beyond Learning.Also: Biesta, Gert (2009) ‘Creating Spaces for learning or MakingRoom for Education’ lecture as part of the Transforming OurSchools series, The University of Nottingham. Online at: 11 11
    12. 12. Workshops: Theories and Methods(Co-design and Co-Research)Theories of democratic schooling and thevalues of free play, ownership, andchildren’s agency. If a school is aboutenabling each human being to reachtheir full humanity, what does thisspace look like?Theatre practices such as those suggestedby Augusto Boal can also informQuestions about the ethics of criticalpedagogy and its roots in/influence byphenomenology and Critical Theory (whatcontemporary theories about theconstruction of the gendered or sexuatesubject bring). 12 12
    13. 13. A “documentary” about theschool we’ve designed/or doing being a researcher…(undirected) The Documentary –The Documentary It leads toabout the school we questions…reflectiondesigned…(2) “It’s about governments, and cars as well…” (3) 13
    14. 14. Children as Co-Designers and Co-Researchers 14 14
    15. 15. I’m going to tell you ALL aboutGreen politics…undirected enthusiasm …. (Year 7Girls)Politics and the Adults thecredit crunch environment and ownership 15
    16. 16. YEAR 8: The school we designed …but lets get out of the classroom and showyou want our school is really like…(undirected play) What a sustainable The School We’ve The School We’ve school should be Designed…(cut short) Done… like…(for everyone) 16
    17. 17. Our plays our scripts ourperformances our designs…(teacher present) (Year 7 Girls) 17
    18. 18. Discussions 1. “Global Warming Panic”: I feltfrightened when I first heard about global warming…Children described how they had been frightened by discussions of global warming and also feltsuspicious of the extreme perspective they felt in some of the arguments they had heard.V1: Has anyone seen that movie? The Day after Tomorrow?V2: YesV1: Some people that that is going to happen, The Day after Tomorrow.V3: Oh is that the one where the earth gets flooded? Yes, the world all gets flooded and stuff like that.V4: I gave all my clothes to the Tsunami when that happened.V3: What do you wear then?V2: I don’t know what’s going to happen to the world, who knows what’s going to really happen. Whether we’re going to get finished off by flooding, whether it’s going to fly into the Sun, whether we’re all going to die due to global warming.V3: We’ve got a few years left.V2: Whether the magma’s going to come out and flood the world with magma. Who knows whether someone will create a zombie virus and bring zombies, dead people back to life. Who knows if aliens don’t exist and they might destroy the earth. I’m just coming up with theories about what might happen to the earth. I’m thinking be might implode. 18
    19. 19. 2. “Is it really our responsibility as children?”In the context of discussion about my role and purpose as a researcher, there were alsodiscussions of whether it was indeed children’s responsibility to change their own behaviour. Thiscan be seen in an example of dialogue from a workshop, during initial focus-group-typediscussions:Researcher: So what do you think it would take to make people behave more sustainably?V1: There’s a lot of rubbish on the field, more bins around the back for the school… […]V2: Supermarkets are saying to people [to recycle], but they put drinks in packets and wrappers […]V3: On some packing it says you can recycle it, but some people just chuck it on the floor […]V2: Because some games, computer games, there’s like plastic and you’ve got to separate it […] they should make an easier way torecycle.V3: It’s not just like the public getting it wrong because the Government aren’t really doing much about it […] and they aresending it to India!Researcher: Yeah, I saw that TV programme too.V2: Everyone is just worrying about the credit crunch, the credit crunch at the moment.V3: It might be about the public, but it is the Government as well. 19
    20. 20. 3. The Credit Crunch, Greed, Consumerism, “…people want, want, want…”There were also discussions of greed and the cost of being environmentally friendly. Young people understood sustainable lifestyles as more costly, and yet they could also understand the criticism that consuming less may be less expensive. A typical transcript from a workshop with Year 7 children demonstrates this:Researcher: Do you think the credit crunch […] or the ‘economic crisis’ has something to do with global warming?V1: Yeah [boys responding to the question].V1: Because the banks are lending money, but people aren’t paying it back…V2: Because it’s like [a man] maxed out like six credit cards and killed himself, and then his wife had to pay it off.V1: Because like if moneys gone out of your bank account you won’t have enough money to buy light bulbs.V2: People want, want, want, they want to go on holidays, they want big cars, they want their children to have the latest video games.Researcher: Do you think people could stop behaving like this?V1: Some kids get spoilt a bit sometimes […] because kids get spoilt my Dad started saying things I don’t need and I want I have to buy it myself. It teaches me how it’s going to be like when I grow up. You’re limited in what you can buy. And ones that get spoilt should do it as well […] because when they’re older it’s not going to happen and you need to work 20it. for
    21. 21. 4. “The problem of habit: “It takes a lot to break habits…” The idea that sustainable behaviour is a matter of habit was also part of the discussion, as demonstrated in conversation with one of the girls in the workshops: V3 [girl]: Is it about habits? It takes a lot to break habits. […] you know with the green umm… thing it’s the way you’ve been brought up, I think, and the way you act. If you act like you share all the time, you won’t be greedy, but if you don’t share and you say “no I want that now” not later, that’s just greed. V1: And if you want it, it’s better for like the credit crunch and everything, and it’s cheaper, a week later. 21
    22. 22. 5. “Children’s agency: “’s like you act, you don’t have to copy them” Significantly the young people interviewed also believed they had agency and could behave in the way they wanted to: Researcher: Do you think it is young people that recycle and care more than their parents? V1: Yeah they might. V2: Depends on their attitude. V1: I want to say that it doesn’t depend much on the adults, it’s like you act, you don’t have to copy them. You can just say “no”, “not doing that”. V3: Life is too short to live someone else’s life. V4: Life is what you make it. V2: That was on an advert. 22
    23. 23. What this Means for Transforming Education, and Encourage Sustainable Lifestyles ?• 3 things education does: qualification, socialisation, subjectification• Subjectification: how you become a human being/coming into presence is the real purpose of education• Coming into presence (Levinas) expresses an educational interest in the human subject in a more open way.• We could start form the assumption of a radical difference between us (Levinas): one where each of us is unique and irreplaceable. 23 23
    24. 24. Conclusions• We need ways of building different sorts of community (Lingis, 1994);• We need ways of educating for those communities (Gert Biesta, 2009).• We (as architects) need ways to interpret these approaches. 24 24
    25. 25. FUTURE RESEARCH THEMES ANDACTIVITIES…Bid, “How can we build sustainable and justcommunities?’ AHRC Networking GrantSchool Design Futures, 3 Seminars,UKERC/’Meeting Place’ Funded, 2 in Oxford andone in Cheltenham.‘Our Common Future’ Fellowship: GermanyConference, Hamburg, November 2010.DEFRA Sustainable Behaviours UnitSecondment/Short-Term contract 25 25
    26. 26. Humanities Perspectives onSustainable DevelopmentConference: Environmental Change,Cultural Change, Conference, Bath,1st – 4th September 2010What are called for are new forms of desire:new ways to make reduced consumptiondesirable (Soper, Kate Martin Rye and LynThomas (2009) The Politics and Pleasures ofConsuming Differently. Basingstoke,Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan.) 26 26
    27. 27. Thank You 27