When I was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota I had a professor of Educational Psychology, Dr. Punchocar, who taught a class full of upperclassmen (and women) and graduate students. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings I would trudge through the bitter Minnesota winter cold and listen to what she had to say. She is one of those teachers that made a difference in the way I perceive the world. One evening she discussed perceptions and the lecture caught my ear and though I don't exactly remember who she was talking about. I do remember her noting something about a public figure (what was his name?) mixing up his words one day, so that, instead of saying "I'll believe it when I see it", he misspoke to say "I'll see it when I believe it". The class that day focused on the power of perception and how the human mind sometimes has a very difficult time seeing things that, otherwise, might be in plain sight.
Time, dreams and jobs have taken me far from Minnesota by now and conversations aimed at understanding educational psychology have developed a more environmental taste, but I've found, since then, that Dr. Punchocar might well have been talking about global issues. Communities steeped in tradition refusing to consider the possibility that there might actually be more appropriate ways of thinking for a changing world. Empires have been based on such thinking. Racism and discrimination are, likewise, born of such circumstance. At ISKL we hope our students will be able to move above that pre-molded thinking and to put themselves into a 'higher' realm of understanding and perception of the world.
I would have to assume that, if given a survey question stating "do you agree that the environment is important?", almost everyone would say yes. Likewise, similar responses would be generated on the importance of nurturing the environment, supporting sustainable practices, etc. When not pressed for personal sacrifice, the environment, and sustainability are oft popular, particularly in these days of increasing concerns over global warming and habitat loss.
But on a personal level, how many of us have actually made the conscious decision to cut down on travel and follow through on it? How many minimize their shower time? Do we actually car pool? How many address the issues that, collectively, Al Gore so purposely named an inconvenient truth? In the end I don't think that it's an issue of what is right. Most of us are keenly aware of the ethical dimensions of the challenges that lay ahead in our history with regard to sustainability. It's not an issue of knowing or not knowing. It doesn't even matter if humanity is involved or responsible for global climate change, really. I would find it difficult to believe that anyone related to our community would, knowingly, continue a lifestyle without at least a purposeful consideration for the ethical dimensions of what he/she is doing to those around him/her. After all, if we ask our multinational organizations, the world's biggest corporations, the globe's governments, for accountability in what they do, and ethical treatment of people and resources, would it be such a far fetched notion for us to reflect on our own behaviors with regard to the natural balance of things and ask that much more of ourselves?
In the end it's a matter of perception. Does the educational program at ISKL offer the opportunities for our students to engage in an understanding of the world that will essentially challenge the fundamental methods by which humanity has functioned for the past couple centuries since the industrial revolution? Do we, as an institution of learning geared at providing a top-notch education that will provide our students with a pool of knowledge and skills to be a successful leader, actually consider the consequences of our own actions, our choices, our decisions? The simple answer is "yes", but on an arguably limited level.
In redefining the ISKL of the present and the future much weight will be placed on where we want our students to go, what we want our students to know, and what they should be able to do. Thinking creatively, communicating effectively, learning enthusiastically, collaborating constructively, reasoning critically and living ethically have everything to do not only with the education of our students, but with the functioning of our entire community and the world we touch (and will continue to affect).
Each day that passes we should challenge our children to be better at creating a better future. We should ask them to communicate effectively with either peers, teachers and families to ensure a sustainable tomorrow. We should require them to collaborate constructively to enable humanity and the environment to continue having a synergistic relationship. We should ask students to chink creatively in finding solutions in the global and local problems we face. We should hope that they learn enthusiastically and recognize the power of their education in making change. We should expect them to live ethically, to put their lives into perspective, and make educated decisions on how, exactly, we can each contribute to sustaining and bettering our natural heritage.
We need to believe it in order to see it.