Digging our own grave: A Marxian consideration of formal education as a destructive enterprise
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Bainbridge, A. (2020) 'Digging our own grave: A Marxian consideration of formal education as a destructive enterprise', International Review of Education, 66, pp. 737-753.
The negative impact of human activity has been known throughout history. The epic tale of Gilgamesh, Koranic and biblical texts all make clear the potential that humans have to destroy the world in which they live. Climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 have also been predicted well in advance. The “wicked problem” (dilemma) to address is: “Why do humans still persist in ‘digging their own graves’ by damaging the environments they inhabit?” The author of this article argues that the motive to engage in education can be understood as an ancient human response to ecological change. This has led to a range of behaviours, including teaching and learning that serve only to further disrupt the relationship between the human and the “more-than-human” world. When formal education structures are viewed through a Marxian lens, it soon becomes clear that the unsustainable impact of humans on the more-than-human is the result of capitalist entrapment. Karl Marx’s proposition of a metabolic rift helps make sense of the nonsensical, while a discussion of use and exchange value shows how formal education has become ensnared in the mire of capitalist productivity, concealing from view the educationally-induced destruction of planetary systems that support human flourishing. Fortunately, a more sustainable and sustaining education is possible – this is an education for a “long-life” that is no longer influenced by the machinery of neoliberalism.