In 1955, Robert Hutchins, then President of the University of Chicago, said, “The object of universities …is not the preservation of the status quo. It is the improvement of the conditions of life and the clarification of its aims.” In the 21st century, universities have the responsibility of creating new knowledge and educating people as professionals and as citizens able to comprehend the human-environment system and the human impacts that threaten the biosphere and social stability.
Universities must be organized and committed to help humankind reduce its ecological footprint, preserve and better utilize knowledge that resides within indigenous peoples, and deliver interdisciplinary education to insure students and society better understand their responsibilities to inspire behavioural and technological change that promotes sustainability. Former Yale President Albert Giammatti observed, “The University must be a tributary to a larger society, not a sanctuary from it.”
Further, as David W. Orr (1994) has said, “…all education is environmental education. By what is included or excluded, students are taught that they are part or apart from the natural world.” The contemporary University must be organized to enable the educational community to pursue new directions, integrating science, technology and culture with the aim of educating students—future leaders of society—about the social, political, economic and environmental context of science and technology Inherent in the University must be a goal to teach students they are “part of” the natural world and have responsibilities to it and to current and future generations. The university has the responsibility of being fully engaged with community, at levels that range from the local to the global, creating partnerships that enable society to confront value-based behaviours that undermine sustainability and develop technologies, techniques and approaches that promote sustainability. The University faces no greater challenge and has no higher mission.
|Keywords:||Interdisciplinarity & University Organization, Human-Environment System, Sustainability, New Directions in Science, Technology & Culture|
Professor, Academic Affairs, Colorado School of Mines, USA
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