2 February 2024

ATWhile more and more researchers in economics and social sciences take the measure of the scale of ecological issues and integrate them into their research program, in France, high school students continue to receive lessons where ecological questions are considered as a supplement of civic or moral soul, detached from standard content reputed to be more useful for understanding our economic and social world.

This approach places our students in a situation of cognitive dissonance: the gap between current curricula, which bear the mark of an outdated vision of thought as well as of the economic system, and the need to revolutionize our knowledge, our paradigms, our lifestyles and our modes of collective action, is becoming blatant and, to be honest, untenable.

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Students know the extent of the climate crisis and become aware of the collapse of life, work in class on the ecological limits of growth, but continue to be trained in economic models that do not take these limits into account or claim to be able to ignore them by resorting to technological innovation. Likewise, they learn to analyze the relationships of power and inequality, but without being able to really articulate them with environmental issues.

Confronting the issues of our time

The economic and social sciences (SES) are the teaching where, par excellence, the plural knowledge of the social sciences can make it possible to understand the systemic nature of ecological crises, their articulation with our modes of production and consumption as with our social structures and policies. Students should be able to confront the questions of our time: what systemic transition strategies to respond to the climate crisis? How to reconcile transition and social justice? What role can the State and public authorities in general play in adapting to climate change?

As it stands, the orientation of the programs deprives us of this essential educational lever to change attitudes and behaviors: in 2019, while young people were demonstrating all over the world and in France against the climate crisis, the Ministry of National Education endorsed the removal of the theme of the consumption of content taught in second grade. How not to feel disoriented?

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Especially since, for a long time, the constituent disciplines of the SES have recognized the existence of the borders of the biosphere, taking note of the embedding of economic and social relations within the finite limits of our planet. The designers of the SES programs, who devote only one chapter to ecological issues from the final year onwards, nevertheless persist in considering environmental issues as a technological challenge that should be taken up, without questioning the dominant paradigm whose failure is before our eyes, with outdated instruments: privatization of resources, monetary incentives and corrective interventions by public authorities to preserve the market and its self-regulating properties, techno-solutionism, “green growth”, etc.

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