The Case for Unsustainability in the University Curriculum

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Abstract

A mismatch exists between the lived context of a world in crisis and the usual type of university education available to students. This article describes ongoing unsustainability as a dysfunctional modus vivendi actively informed and supported by normal education. The pathway for a cultural transformation to sustainability will remain blocked until normal course content is re-examined and re-centred within a relational ontology framework. We recommend that unsustainability therefore become a central organizing focus for research and learning across the curriculum. We further argue that it is of critical importance to understand the historical nature of our collective human disorientation as well as making the link between objectivist paradigms and unsustainability, paradigms unsurprisingly also implicit in the entire project of Western education. Poverty is discussed to provide one clear example of the inadequacy of the objectivist epistemology of normal science and the unsustainability of the normal university-guided modus vivendi and the construction of global market-oriented identities. Until a broad and deep understanding of unsustainability is established, the wicked problems of modernity can only be expected to multiply.