Education in Solarpunk

Reposted from my Solarpunk Tumblr, which gets priority posting on my solarpunk writing: Hey, I wanted to ask what would education in a solarpunk world look like?

- ppan678

I’m more interested in a very-near-future understanding of Solarpunk that still takes place within pretty much the system as we know it, so I’m going to start with that timescale and move forward into the future. I’m also going to center my answer on America, because that’s where I live and where I write about, so this may be only varyingly applicable to you or your work:

Starting with pretty-much-now, solarpunks are living in a system with an inadequate and often destructive education apparatus that systematically traumatizes most participants and often routinely mis-educates them. Teen solarpunks — like, the protaganists of a solarpunk YA novel — might consider dropping out, or they might be working double-time on their education to teach themselves valuable skills and theory in their free time while maintaining their position in the education system in order to avoid the consequent loss of status in the larger society. Post-high-school, I tend to imagine that education would be important — there’d probably be a lot of non-graduation-track community college attendance, participation in MOOCs, and interpersonal collaborative learning efforts. I’d like to imagine that one of the first community spaces a solarpunk group would establish would contain a library.

The next timescale can double as both a description of possibilities for a 10-30 year future, and as positions for solarpunk as a political movement. (That does raise the question, though: is solarpunk a holistic political movement that proposes an answer to every social question? Or is it task-specific?)

An end to common core: One of the first priorities needs to be the end of national-scale micromanaging of schools. It routinely makes teachers’ jobs difficult or impossible. Ending or severely abridging standardized testing, or at least the relationship between standardized testing and funding, is also important. Also, all-around increased funding for schools everywhere is important. Solarpunk would push for education reform, but I envision it doing that by breaking down federal and state micromanaging of education and increasing community involvement in schools.

Honestly, though, education is extremely important but it’s not a first-order social problem — by which I mean America has other problems that need to be solved in order to solve education problems. We need a basic income and an increase in the minimum wage, because people in poverty need to be able to work a small enough portion of their time to be involved in the school system of their community. (Seriously, though — that’s such a big deal. People need to be able to work 40 or fewer hours a week and have enough money, because otherwise they just can’t be involved in their communities. That failure perpetuates systematic inequality via PTA.)

As we move further into the future, I start to see it as less solarpunk, since if a revolutionary movement is completely effective it kinda stops being ‘punk’ and starts being the system. But in a post-solarpunk and/or solar-utopian world:

The education system would be fluid, publicly funded and lifelong. It would be normal for people to always be enrolled in one or two classes. This would be a world that is post- or semi-post employment, so the education system wouldn’t need to optimize for filling gaps in job markets, the way public education did in the early 20th century and college does now. (Public education’s still optimizing for job gaps in the cold war.) Formats for classes would vary wildly but I tend to imagine they’d still be group endeavors on the part of the students (since without the structure of employment we need new social organizations for routinely interacting with other humans.)

P.S. I got this question by fanmail, which reminded me that I never put a link to my ask box up. It’s there now.