Al Gore was on Fresh Air yesterday, and I caught about half the conversation in between picking up kids and shuttling them to friends and riding lessons. (One of the effects of reinventing yourself out of a job…all sorts of new jobs crop up.) He was talking about global warming, and I thought he did so in a very wise and articulate way. I’ve liked Al for a long time, especially for his views on the environment, and yesterday he just seemed to have a very focused, pull no punches message: we either fix this now or we’re toast. Literally. And he just took to task those special interests who have been attempting to obfuscate this message (and who continue to do so now…did you hear about the “CO2, They call it pollution, we call it life” pitch? Painfully absurd.) Anyone who still thinks there is a debate about this is fooling himself. And the main reason, aside from the pitchmen, is, as Gore said in the interview, that “change is inconvenient.” We don’t want to admit that our actions have put civilization on the brink, because once we do, the only alternative is to change.
Those changes will need to be big and small. Some will deal with individual choice, like our decision to buy a reel mower this year, to compost, to seriously reduce the amount we consume, to save for a hybrid, etc. Some will require political action to force corporations and other entities to employ more eco friendly (civilization friendly?) practices. But any way you slice it, our lives have to change in some significant ways if we are to make an impact. (Personally, I’m not extremely hopeful on this score.) This is “An Inconvenient Truth” which is the title of
Gore’s book and movie on the subject. (Both of which are certain to be assailed.)My point is that there are similarities to education here as well (though obviously, not quite as dire.) In short, change in our schools and classrooms and practice is inconvenient. We are comfortable with what we’ve been doing for the past 100 years. We recognize it as our own since we were all participants in it when we ourselves went to school. It’s ingrained in our culture, and it’s a system that despite its flaws, most people don’t seriously want to change. It’s too much trouble.
But just like the polar ice caps are melting (and yes, they really are melting), our relevance as an education system is melting away as well. In both cases, we are the frog in the slowly warming pot, unable or unwilling to sense the danger until the water begins to boil and we pass quietly away. Overly dramatic? Maybe. But I don’t think that there can be too much disagreement that for now, it’s easier to keep what we’ve got than make dramatic changes, even though those changes are happening all around us. It’s just too inconvenient.
Note: I just want to mention that my wife Wendy is on her way to San Francisco today after being asked to do a spot on Air America’s Eco Talk which will air around the country on Saturday. She’ll be talking about her environmental tip book which I would highly recommend (but only if you want to change.) It goes without saying that I am extremely proud of her, and am inspired by her passion. You go, girl!