An Education That Doesn’t Cost the Planet
THE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINAIBILITY ISSUE
Every edition of the RCQ resonates in different ways. It was a great pleasure for me to read the last edition, for example, which was such an inspiring showcase for artistic creativity. This edition focuses on another area that is particularly dear to my heart – and is arguably the most important challenge of our time.
I should like to begin with a well-known quotation from Winston Churchill: “We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.” Churchill’s reflection on architecture might, with gentle modification, be extended to help us consider the current state of our planet: We shape our world; thereafter, it shapes us.
And what does that world resemble, in 2021? Our beaches are littered with plastic, and the current generation do not remember a time when this was not normal. More than a million species are at immediate risk of extinction; there are species that today’s young people will never see. The air in our cities is noxious. Water is growing scarcer every day as global temperatures rocket. A new pandemic has claimed millions of lives. Each generation passes on the gift of the future to its children. Yet we are close to passing on not a gift, but a curse.
We might well enquire: How did we come to this? But it is more important to ask: How do we come out of it?
It is easy to attribute blame to individuals controlling corporations, institutions, banks and governments. Easy, but wrong. All those people shared one common experience: an education. We must accept and understand that, if we are to redress the world’s current challenges, education here onwards needs to be redefined, renewed, and repositioned. Leading schools around the world are embracing this challenge. Turkey must not lag behind.
Education has been a preparation for the workplace. Education has been an immersion in specialized academic areas. Now, an education must be something different. The education of the future must retain the best of previous models whilst also being about connection.
We must connect young people to themselves. We must connect them to each other. We must connect them to nature. And we must share this journey with them.
The work is urgent and precious. The bonds that have been broken must be renewed. Young people who can no longer name trees or fish or plants or birds will never be invested in their protection. How could they? The natural world is sometimes described as being voiceless. This is incorrect. We are its voices. If we choose to be. If we are educated to be.
As is often the case, visionaries among the rising generation are already ahead of us. They have started to realize that there is limited value in graduating from RC and the Ivy League only to inherit a dust-bowl. They have, as a consequence, begun to drive their own agendas through the work of individuals such as Greta Thunberg, and youth-led movements such as Fridays for Future.
We owe it to them to catch up.
Article 56 of the Turkish Constitution states that protecting nature is the duty of all citizens. If we are to honor the spirit of this wise decree, we must renew every part of what an education means: our curriculum, our teaching, our welfare and co-curricular programs, our infrastructure, our partners, mission and social responsibility.
RC has always led. Now, we must lead again. We must create a new paradigm for schools in Istanbul, and ultimately the nation. An education mustn’t cost the planet: it must be delivered sustainably. This is our great challenge – and our opportunity. Childhood is the formative period in our lives. We learn from what we see and experience as much as what we are told. Therefore we must create wiser spaces, ones that model sustainable modes of living until they become our norm; until current, wasteful models are intolerable for the rising generations. We need to give them the educational tools to address the issues that will affect their nation and their world, and instill in them the belief that engaged, positive action, coupled with practical, scientific solutions, can make a real difference.
It is a bold vision but an essential one. I share it unashamedly with you as the Head of this great school in the belief that change is still possible, hope is still valid, and because education remains our greatest tool.
I hope you enjoy this edition of the RCQ. In the pages hereafter you will have the opportunity to read about the great work we already have planned or in progress, and I actively encourage you to reach out to us to share your stories and support regarding any and all ideas you have to help us in this vital work.
Head of School