EcoJustice Education

Toward Diverse, Democratic, and Sustainable Communities

2nd Edition



Introduction: The Purposes of Education in an Age of Ecological Crises and Worldwide Insecurities

We begin the book with an Introduction that looks at the interrelated ecological and social crises that call us to this work. We present information on global climate change and other ecological crises in direct relationship to data on worldwide poverty.  We discuss the purposes of education within this context as contrasted with what schools have been organized to do historically.   Included in this discussion is a definition of EcoJustice Education as well as descriptions of several of the fields that have influenced this body of work. 

Guiding Questions

  1. What sorts of human-made problems do we see in our global ecosystem?
  2. Describe some of the impacts of global climate change.
  3. How did the invention of the steam engine change social and economic systems? Describe the impact of this invention on ecological systems.
  4. What do we learn from ecologically aware cultural theorists about the destruction of entire ecosystems?
  5. Describe how “efficiency” has led to so many problems. What are the problems listed in the chapter?
  6. How is climate change impacting other species? Describe how the impact of climate change on other species could be referred to as a “canary in the coal mine.”
  7. Describe the data given by the Human Development Report on Global Income Distribution. What does this tell us about our current economic systems?
  8. What do Martin Kohr and the authors explain as the cause of world hunger and poverty for the so-called “developed” and “underdeveloped?”
  9. What are the effects of what the authors refer to as the “pressure to modernize?”
  10. What is a “cultural ecological analysis?”
  11. What do the authors mean when they say that “the ecological crisis is really a cultural crisis?”
  12. What are the six interrelated elements of EcoJustice?
  13. How does EcoJustice include social justice?  How does EcoJustice refuse the dichotomy between social justice and environmental concerns?
  14. In addition to EcoJustice, what are the related approaches mentioned in the Chapter?
  15. Reviewing the related approaches make a chart that lists the major characteristics of each approach.  Choose two of the approaches and explain how they differ from EcoJustice.
  16. How does EcoJustice differ from Environmental Justice?
  17. What is “speciesism?”
  18. What are three major goals that have framed public schools according to Joel Spring? Briefly describe each.
  19. What is the primary question asked in a “pedagogy of responsibility?” What two ethical questions frame a “pedagogy of responsibility?”
  20. According to the authors, what is the purpose of education for EcoJustice Educators?
  21. What is an “eco-ethical consciousness?”

Additional Reading

Books and Essays

Bowers, C. A. (2001). Educating for eco-justice and community. Athens, GA: Universityof Georgia Press.

Hansen, J. (2009). Storms of my grandchildren: The truth about the coming climatecatastrophe and our last chance to save humanity. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

McKibben, B. (2007). Introduction. Deep economy: The wealth of communities andthe durable future (1st ed.). New York, NY: Times Books.


Conners, N. (2008). The 11th Hour. United States: Warner Home Video.A look at the state of the global environment including visionary and practicalsolutions for restoring the planet's ecosystems.

Guggenheim, D. (2006). An Inconvenient Truth. United States: Paramount Vantage.Al Gore’s film demonstrating the impacts of climate change.

Rethinking Diversity and Democracy for Sustainable Communities

This chapter presents a critical discussion of what diversity education ought to mean when considering our nested, interdependent relationships as humans in larger life systems, and what democratic communities engaged in deep understanding of the importance of these systems to our survival would look like. Defining sustainable communities as those that do not interfere with the ability of natural systems to regenerate themselves, this discussion provides a framework for considering what diverse, democratic, and sustainable communities ought to look like, laying out some specific principles that will guide the rest of the book.

Guiding Questions

  1. How do you define “community?”
  2. What are the three defining concepts the authors use when they consider a healthy community?
  3. How do the authors define “democracy?”
  4. How do the authors define “sustainable communities?”
  5. How is “diversity” defined? What is included in that definition?
  6. What is “cultural diversity?”    
  7. What is “biodiversity?”
  8. What is “interdependence?”
  9. What is a hierarchy?
  10. What are “value-hierarchized ways of thinking?”
  11. What is lost when someone or something is excluded from decision-making?
  12. What is at stake when linguistic diversity is threatened? How is that related to cultural and biological diversity?
  13. How do the authors discuss “conflict” in relationship to democracy?
  14. What does democracy challenge us to do?
  15. What is a “principle?” What are the fundamental principles of democratic decision-making?
  16. Why is diversity the strength and the reason for democratic decision-making and community?
  17.  How does “majority rules” undermine democracy?
  18. Describe Thomas Jefferson’s vision and belief in community? What did he argue for in regards to decision-making? What were the beliefs of his critics?
  19.   What is the argument between Jefferson and Madison?
  20. What is “liberal democracy?” What fundamental assumptions underlie  “liberal democracy?”
  21. What are the basic tenets of liberal democracy?
  22. Describe how liberal democracy is rooted in hierarchized thinking.
  23. What do the authors mean when they say “we are the inheritors of the social and ecological consequences of this mindset today?”  What “trumps community” according to the authors?
  24. Describe “strong democracy?”
  25. Pushing the idea that politics is about negotiation over differences, how does Benjamin Barber define the requirement of “action?”
  26. What is lost when we view politics as the business of others?
  27. According to Barber, in a strong democracy what defines a decision as a matter for public versus personal consideration?    
  28. Given we can never be 100% certain, what is required of democratic decision-making? How would you describe doing your “reasonable best” in a strong democracy?
  29. Describe what Barber calls “public talk.”
  30. Describe what Raymond Williams has called “equality of being.”
  31. How do “public talk” and “equality of being” work together to strengthen democratic decision-making?
  32. Explain what the authors mean when they use the phrase, “more-than-human.”
  33. Describe Vandana Shiva’s Earth democracy.
  34. How does Earth democracy compare to liberal democracy? How does it extend strong democracy?
  35. In your own words, what would you say is the fundamental concern of decision-making in an Earth democracy?
  36. Shiva uses the term “living” in relationship to describing economies, cultures, and democracies.  What is implied when she does this?
  37. Reflecting on Wendell Berry’s list on guiding principles for sustainable communities, what on the list stands out to you.  Choose three points from the list and explain how they support diversity, democracy, and sustainability.     

Additional Reading

Books and Essays

Barber, B. (1989). Public talk and civic action: Education for participation in a strong democracy. Social Education, Oct. 355–356.

Berry, W. (2001). The idea of a local economy. In In the Presence of Fear (pp. 11–33). Great Barrington, MA: Orion Society.

Cavanaugh, J., & Mander, J. (2004). Ten principles of sustainable societies: Reclaiming the commons. In Alternatives to economic globalization (pp. 77-146). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Goodman, J. (1989). Education for a critical democracy. Journal of Education, 88–117.

Prakash, M. S. (1994). What are people for? Wendell Berry on education, Ecology, Culture Educational Theory, Spring, 135-157.

Quinn, D. (1992). Ishmael. New York, NY: Bantam/Turner Books.

Shiva, V. (2005). Principles of Earth Democracy. In Earth Democracy: Justice, sustainability, and peace (pp. 1–11). Cambridge, MA: South End Press. Cambridge: South End Press.

Van Gelder, S. R., & Shiva, V. (2003) Earth Democracy: An interview with Vandana Shiva. Yes! Magazine, Winter.


Merton, L., & Dater, A. (2008). Taking root: The vision of Wangari Maathai. Marlboro, VT : Marlboro Productions.

Tells the dramatic story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, protect human rights, and defend democracy--a movement for which this charismatic woman became an iconic inspiration

Moore, M. (2010). Capitalism: A love story. Beverly Hills, CA : Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Filmmaker Moore examines the history of free-market capitalism in post-Reagan America and questions its efficacy as the basis for democratic nations.

Sundberg, A., & Stern, R. (2008). The end of America. United States: IndiePix Films.

A look at best-selling author Naomi Wolf's take on how democracy in America is in jeopardy, and of other countries that once had a democratic government.


Wendell Berry on His Hopes for Humanity

The Cultural Foundations of the Crises: A Cultural/Ecological Analysis

Chapter 3 examines the imbedded cultural assumptions shaping the modern industrial mindset, arguing that language is at the heart of the reproduction of social and ecological violence. Ecofeminist philosophy is brought into conversation with the work of C. A. Bowers to introduce a cultural ecological analysis central to EcoJustice Education. Discourses developed and taken for granted over generations reinforce value hierarchies and patterns of centric thinking shaping the industrial/consumer culture now sweeping the planet.

Guiding Questions

  1. From the opening classroom discussion among Rebecca and her students, what can you discern about the relationship among language, thought, and behavior?
  2. How do the authors define culture and how is culture related to language?
  3. What is the role of “difference” in the creation of meaning?
  4. What is “an Ecology of Mind?” How does this idea define intelligence? Where is intelligence or mind located according to Bateson?
  5. What is the relationship between “a system of differentiation” and the idea of “interdependence?”
  6. What is important about the interrelationship among cultural, linguistic, and biological diversity?
  7. Why might the globalization of English be a problem to the world’s cultural and biological diversity?
  8. What is the meaning of Bateson’s phrase “the map is not the territory?” How does it help us to understand the way we think about our relationship to the natural world?
  9. What is “systemic wisdom?”
  10. What do the authors mean by “What we ‘know’ is always a matter of what we can say about the world…?” What does language have to do with knowledge?
  11. How is it that “difference” is at the heart of all meaning?
  12. What is a “value hierarchy” and how do these structure our identities and relationships?
  13. What is “primary socialization” and how is language a part of it?
  14. How is meaning “context dependent” and what does this tell us about diversity?
  15. How do metaphors work to create meaning?
  16. What is a “logic of domination” and how do metaphors function within it?
  17. What is a root metaphor?
  18. Define discourse. Describe how discourse uses metaphor.
  19. How can a “world view” be both a “fiction” and yet function as “truth?”
  20. How do modernist discourses influence our lives?
  21. How does mechanism function to harm the natural world? How does it work in science?
  22. What relationship do you see among the modernist discourses? How do they support one another?
  23. Why is it important to understand that all cultures are created discursively?
  24. What are some of the primary differences in discourses among sustainable vs. modernist cultures?

Additional Reading

Books and Essays

Bateson, G. (2000). Part VI: Crisis in the ecology of mind. Steps to an ecology of mind (University of Chicago Press ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Berry, W. (2000). Life is a miracle: An essay against modern superstition. Washington,

D.C.: Counterpoint.

Bowers, C. A., & Flinders, D. J. (1990). Responsive teaching : an ecological approach toclassroom patterns of language, culture, and thought . New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Bowers, C. A. (2001). How language limits our understanding of environmental education. Environmental Education Research, 7(2), 141–151.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Merchant, C. (1980). The death of nature. In Michael E. Zimmerman, J. Baird

Callicott Cliffs, et al. (Eds), Environmental philosophy: from animal rights to radical ecology.Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Plumwood, V. (2002). The blindspots of centrism and human self-enclosure. Chapter 5 in

Environmental culture: The ecological crisis of reason. New York, NY: Routledge.

Warren, K. (1998). The power and the promise of ecological feminism. In M. E. Zimmerman, J. Baird Callicott et al. (Eds.), Environmental philosophy: From animal rights to radical ecology (pp. 325–344). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Learning Anthropocentrism: An EcoJustice Approach to Human Supremacy and Education

This is a foundational chapter for understanding how we come to learn the idea that humans are superior to all other species, and how this idea serves as the basis for other forms of centric thinking. We look at what the primary assumptions are grounding this discourse, how they are institutionalized especially in an “animal industrial complex.” We explore examples of how schools reproduce anthropocentric ways of thinking and how a pedagogy of responsibility helps students and teachers to challenge these problems

Guiding Questions

  1. Define anthropocentrism.
  2. Why might we choose the concept “human supremacy” over anthropocentrism?
  3. How does Gregory Bateson’s work help us to expose anthropocentrism as a myth of Western culture?
  4. How do 18th century philosopher, Rene Descartes’ ideas differ fundamentally from Bateson’s ideas and why does this matter?
  5. What are some of the metaphors we use to refer to animals that allow us to treat them as commodities?
  6. What is “The Great Chain of Being” and how does is function discursively? What are its assumptions about relationships among humans and other species?
  7. What are some of the arguments against the supremacy of human “consciousness” or intelligence? What do you think about those arguments?
  8. In what ways do plants demonstrate “consciousness” or intelligence?
  9. How do prairie dogs use language and how is this connected to a specific form of intelligence?
  10. Comment on the idea that “Each of our bodies is home to a vast collection of microscopic species that forms its own ecological interdependencies with the other cells of our bodies.” Why might this be an important way of challenging the idea that humans are at the top of a “food chain?”
  11.  What is the “animal industrial complex” and how does examining its processes help us to challenge assumptions about human supremacy?
  12. What is “biotechnology?” What are some of the specific dangers of these processes and how are they related to anthropocentric assumptions?
  13. What are Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations? What are some of the dangers of CAFOs?
  14. What are the main differences between vegans and vegetarians?
  15. What is animal experimentation? List out some of the common testing procedures.
  16. What is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA)?
  17. What is it about zoos, circuses, and other forms of the animal entertainment industry that animal welfare and rights activists take issue with?
  18. What are some of the ways that humans and more-than-human animals resist the animal entertainment industry?
  19. What is the Animal Welfare Act?
  20. How do schools play a role in upholding human supremacy?
  21. According to the authors, what are the three tasks of enacting a pedagogy of responsibility?

Additional Reading

Books and Essays

Chamovitz, D. (2012). What a plant knows: A field guide to the senses. New York, NY: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Coetzee, J. M. (1999). The lives of animals. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jensen, D. & Tweedy-Holmes (2007). Thought to exist in the wild: Awakening from the nightmare of zoos. Santa Cruz, CA: No Voice Unheard.

Kenmmerer, L. (Ed). (2011). Sister species: Women, animals and social justice. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Merchant, C. (1990). The death of nature: Women, ecology and the Scientific Revolution. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins.

Socha, K. & Blum, S. (2013). Confronting animal exploitation: Grassroots essays on liberation and veganism. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company.


Cowperthwaite, G. (Writer). (2013). Blackfish. USA: Magnolia Home Entertainment.

Curry, M. (Writer). (2011). If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front. USA: Oscilloscope Laboratories.

McAnallen, S. (Writer/Director). (2012). The Superior human? Australia: Ultraventus.

Monroe, M. (Writer), Psihoyos, L. (Director). C. Hambleton, F. Stevens, J. Clark, O. Ahnemann & P. D. Pesemn (Producer). (2009). The Cove. USA: Lions Gate.

Monson, S. (Writer), B. Harrelson, B. C. Raz, N. Visram, M. Q & P. White (Producer). (2005). Earthlings. USA: Nation Earth.


Mancuso, S. (July 2010) TED talk: The roots of plant intelligence.

Learning Androcentrism: An EcoJustice Approach to Gender and Education

This chapter examines the history of gendered schooling placing women’s experiences within this broad cultural framework. We trace the development of women’s relation to public education and higher education beginning in the nineteenth century moving through changes in the twentieth century brought about by the feminist movement. In the current context we examine the psychological consequences of living within a value hierarchized system that defines women, non-hegemonic men, and members of the LGBTQ community as inferior, focusing on achievement differences, sexuality, and citizenship especially within the context of public schools.

Guiding Questions

  1. How is gender defined by the authors, and why do they distinguish gender from sex?
  2. Note the various concepts related to sexuality. What do these various concepts and their definitions help us to understand about human sexual desire?  
  3. How are sexuality and gender related? Different?
  4. Note the concepts “feminist,” “womanist,” and “pro-feminist.” What are the differences between these groups, and why are they important?
  5. How have hierarchized “dualisms” in modernist discourse functioned to shape our assumptions about men and women’s different capacities? How do they shape our personal gendered experiences and identities?
  6. How does centric thinking weave its way through the history of women in education?  What are the effects of centric discourses in shaping women’s educational experiences historically? Give a few examples from the chapter.
  7. Consider the nineteenth century identification of middle class women as “guardians of childhood.” How was that identity created within the parameters of the hierarchized dualisms discussed earlier? And, how may it also have represented a certain opportunity?
  8. Using the examples provided in the chapter, discuss the ways androcentric thinking operates at unintentional levels to reproduce gender domination in classrooms, school organization, curriculum, and relationships in schools.
  9. What does is mean to “do gender?” Give some examples from schools or your own day-to-day experiences.
  10. How do centric discourses on race and gender intersect or combine to create specific educational experiences?
  11. What is a “pedagogy of shame” and how does it work in conjunction with centric discourses? How does it rely upon and help to maintain a logic of domination?
  12. What is the “boy crisis” and how is it constructed within an androcentric framework?
  13. What does it mean for girls and women to “learn the double standard?”
  14. What is an “economy of sexual desire” and how does it arise within a logic of domination? How are girls’ rivalries constituted within this socio-symbolic context?
  15. What is “hegemonic masculinity” and how does it play into “men’s contradictory experiences of power?”
  16. What is “heteronormativity,” and how is it used as a discursive practice to “pathologize” some groups of people? What are the effects of this pathologizing process?
  17. What is the central message of this chapter as it pertains to a commitment to democratic communities and our responsibilities as educators?

Additional Reading

Books, Reports and Essays

AAUW Educational Foundation. (2008). Where the girls are: The facts about gender

equity and education. Washington, DC: AAUW Education Foundation.

Bartky, Sandra. (1996). The pedagogy of shame. In C. Luke, (Ed.), Feminisms and

pedagogies of everyday life (pp. 225–241). Albany, NY: State University of New

York Press.

Kaufman, M. (1994). Men, feminism, and men's contradictory experiences of

power. . In H. Brod & M. Kaufman (Eds.), Theorizing masculinities (pp. 142–

163). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Martusewicz, R. (1994). Guardians of childhood. In R. Martusewicz & W.

Reynolds (Eds.), Inside out: Contemporary critical perspectives in education (pp.

168–182). New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.

Orenstein, P. (1994). Schoolgirls: Young women, self-esteem, and the confidence gap (1st

ed.). New York, NY: Doubleday.

Unks, G. (1995). Thinking about the gay teen. In Unks, G. (Ed.), The gay teen.

New York, NY: Routledge.


Chasnoff, D. 2007. It’s elementary: talking about gay issues in school; includes new

retrospective documentary It's still elementary. San Francisco, CA : Respect for All


A film taking cameras into classrooms across the U.S. to look at one of today's most controversial topics—whether and how gay issues should be discussed in schools.

Jhally, S. (2002). Tough Guise: violence, media, and the crisis in masculinity. Written by

Jackson Katz, Jeremy Earp. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation.

A film that systematically examines the relationship between pop-cultural imagery and the social construction of masculine identities in the U.S. at the dawn of the 21st century.

Lipschutz, M. & Rosenblatt R. (2005). The education of Shelby Knox: Sex, lies and

education New York, NY : Cine Qua Non InCite Pictures.

A film documenting a 15-year-old girl's transformation from conservative

Southern Baptist to liberal Christian and ardent feminist and her fight for sex

education and gay rights in Lubbock, Texas.

Muska, S.& Olafsdóttir, G. (2000). The Brandon Teena story. United States: Docurama.

Documentary about the life and murder of Brandon Teena, a young trans-sexual

living in Nebraska.


Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity

Michael Katz

Learning our Place in the Social Hierarchy: An EcoJustice Approach to Class Inequality

This chapter takes this conceptual framework to the topic of class and offers an examination of socio-economic stratification, poverty, schooling and the discourses that underlie these. After considering the evidence that class exists despite the ideology that says the contrary, we look at how class differences are reproduced in education. Value-hierarchized thinking leads to seeing many students as having deficits, which in turn justifies various forms of unequal education, particularly including the use of testing and the tracking of students. Hierarchy and deficit thinking also help create a culture within schooling that allows for the “pathologizing” of students as problems rather than victims of inequality.

Guiding Questions

  1. What is meant by the term “class?”
  2. Describe the major class distinctions discussed in the chapter and how they are determined?
  3. How is economic decision-making and buying power related to class?
  4. What does an EcoJustice framework offer to the analysis of social class?
  5. How do language and the discourse of modernity help underlie the maintenance of class?
  6. What is an “ideology?” Describe how ideologies are created within discourse, especially related to class?
  7. What is the relationship between the ruling class and the definition and organization of knowledge?
  8. What do the authors mean by “ideological power?”
  9. How is the history of the development of capitalism related the organization of society into social classes?
  10. What is a “hereditary aristocracy?” How does the history of the U.S. differ from that of Europe regarding class power?
  11. How do the authors define meritocracy? Why do they call it a myth? What is the evidence?
  12. Describe how meritocracy depends on individualism.
  13. How does the myth of meritocracy maintain income inequality? What modernist discourses support this inequality?
  14. What is the relationship between a logic of domination and the existence of social classes? Describe how people’s lives are affected.
  15. What is a “deficit theory?” How do deficit theories help maintain the system of domination or value hierarchies?
  16. Describe “genetic deprivation theory?”
  17. Describe “cultural deprivation theory?” How does it differ from genetic deprivation theory? How is it similar?
  18.  How do deprivation theories pathologize poor and working class families?
  19. Consider the term “at-risk”, how does that label use deficit thinking?
  20.  How does Ruby Payne’s work reproduce deficit explanation of poor and working class families?
  21. How is the idea of meritocracy “the partner of deficit theories?”
  22. What is the relationship between intelligence testing and deficit thinking?
  23. What does it mean to say that intelligence and SAT tests are culturally biased?
  24. How does intelligence testing reproduce racism?
  25. Describe the relationship between test scores and income?
  26. What behavior of the affluent is described when we “turn deficit thinking on its head?”
  27. What does it mean to say that schools “reproduce” class differences? How are value hierarchies reproduced? What are some examples in schools?
  28. When should traditions and practices that get reproduced in schools and society be conserved?
  29. What is the relationship between academic achievement, school funding, and social class? How does a logic of domination rationalize differences in school funding?
  30. What is “tracking?” How is tracking related to intelligence testing and deficit thinking?
  31. How does tracking contribute to the reproduction of social class?
  32. How do “low expectations” for some students result as part of school culture? What are some of the effects?
  33.  What is a “pedagogy of poverty?”
  34.  How is deficit thinking related to individualism? What does William Ryan mean by “blaming the victim?”
  35.  Describe how social class is a “lived experience.”
  36.  How is a “pedagogy of shame” related to the lived experience of class?
  37. What is “agency?” Why is it important to an understanding of the relationship between class and schooling?
  38. What are the contradictory expressions of resistance in schools?
  39. What are some psychological consequences of class distinctions?

Additional Reading

Books and Essays

Anyon, Jean. (1989). Social class and the hidden curriculum of work. In J. Ballantine (Ed.), Schools and society: A unified reader. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing.

“Class Matters,” a special section of The New York Times, at

DeMott, B. (1990). The imperial middle: Why Americans can't think straight about class, New York, NY: Morrow.

hooks, b. (2000). Where we stand: Class matters. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities: Children in America's schools. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

Oakes, Jeannie. (2005). Keeping track: How schools structure inequality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Valencia, R. R. (1997). Conceptualizing the notion of deficit thinking. In R. Valencia, (Ed). The evolution of deficit thinking: Educational thought and practice (pp. 1–12). London: Falmer Press.


Hayden, J. (1998). Children in America’s schools. Columbia, SC: Carolina ETV Network

Learning Racism: An EcoJustice Approach to Racial Inequality

(Co-Authored by Gary Schnakenberg)

This chapter introduces the historical construction of discourses on race and racism. We The chapter demonstrates the ways that science contributed to the construction of race and the discourse of racism to rationalize the domination of people of color by white Europeans. After surveying the historical manifestations of racism across cultures, we consider how racism is institutionalized today. Along with ongoing direct discrimination, the discourse of race is reproduced and internalized in complex psychological ways. Among these are the taken-for-granted assumptions of white privilege that lead to “racial microaggressions.” Racism is carried out in schooling imbedded in deficit explanations of academic achievement, the school to prison pipeline, and zero tolerance policies.

Guiding Questions

  1. What does it means to say that race is a “culturally created discursive category?”
  2. How is race tied to inferiorization?
  3. According to the authors, why is race an “illusion?”
  4. What evidence is there that Europeans once saw Africans as equal to Europeans?
  5. What was the idea of the “Great Chain of Being” and how did it serve to justify colonization and racism?
  6. How did European Christianity play a role in justifying colonization?
  7. How did Columbus help bring slavery to the “New World?”
  8. How did so-called “science” contribute to racist thinking, as in Blumenbach’s categorization of races? What limitations of “science” are demonstrated by this use of the label of “science?”
  9. Consider the story of Saartje Baartman. What does it tell you about the way that Europeans perceived and thought about Africans? How are gender discourses also implicated in this story?
  10. What is Social Darwinism and how did it distort the work of Charles Darwin on natural selection?
  11. What are the primary beliefs organizing the “eugenics” movement? How did eugenics reinforce racism?
  12. In the history of racism, how were early Americans “taught” the assumptions of racism? Who benefited?
  13. Why was the Civil War fought? (Hint: not to free the slaves).
  14. Why didn’t the end of slavery make things much better for African-Americans?
  15. What were the Black Codes?
  16. How did Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois differ on how to pursue better lives for African-Americans?
  17. The authors argue that “the problem of segregation was not that black children went to black schools taught by black teachers.” What do African American scholars say was the problem and why is that important?
  18. What is Brown v. Board of Education and why is it significant? What difference did it make for black children?
  19. Why is it plausible to use the term “genocide” for the ongoing treatment of Native peoples in the Americas?
  20. How did education undermine Native culture and communties?
  21. What educational issues have been faced by Latino/a people?
  22. How has the discourse of racism affected Asian-Americans?
  23. What does it mean to say that the Irish, among others, could “become white?”
  24. What is the evidence that discrimination and racism persist?
  25. What is environmental racism?
  26. How do psychological issues play a role in maintaining racial gaps?
  27. What is “white privilege?”
  28. What is a “racial microaggression?”
  29. In what ways do schools tend to reinforce racial gaps rather than reduce them?
  30. How do schools reproduce deficit explanations specifically around race?
  31. What is culturally responsive (or relevant) teaching and how does it answer some of the problems with mainstream education for children of color?

Additional Reading

Books and Essays

Berlin, I. (1998). Many thousands gone: The first two centuries of slavery in North America. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

McIntosh, P. (1988). White privilege and male privilege: A personal account of coming to see correspondences through work in Women's Studies” (available online at many places,


Painter, N. I. (2010). The history of white people. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.

Segura-Mora, A. (2008). What color is beautiful? In Pelo, A. (ed). Rethinking early childhood education. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.

Siddle-Walker, V. (1996) Their highest potential: An African American school community in the segregated south. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Spring, J. H. (1994). Deculturalization and the struggle for equality: a brief history of the education of dominated cultures. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Takaki, R. (1993). A different mirror: A history of multicultural America. New York, NY: Little.

Tenorio, R. (2008). Raising issues of race with young children. In Pelo, A. (Ed.), Rethinking early childhood education. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools

Zinn, H. (1995). A people’s history of the United States. New York, NY: Harper and Row.


Adelman, L. (2003). Race: The power of an illusion. California Newsreel.

Three-part series examining the social construction of race and its history.

Else, J. (1992). Eyes on the prize: America’s civil rights years. Alexandria, VA: PBS

Essential series on America’s Civil Rights movement, 1954-1985.

Lesiak, C. (1992). In the white man’s image. Alexandria, VA: PBS

Examines the use of boarding schools to destroy Native identity.

Learning about Globalization: Education, Enclosures, and Resistance

Chapter 7 pushes the analysis of racism into the context of globalization and enclosure of the commons across so-called “undeveloped” cultures. The commons are those aspects of the natural world—the land, the air, the water, the diverse species of living plants and animals—as well as the practices, beliefs, traditions and skills once shared freely without the need for monetary exchange. Examining the development of economic policies since 1945 and the establishment of world markets as a priority of dominant industrialized countries, the chapter offers a series of case studies of the ways globalization is both impacting these cultures and being resisted.

Guiding Questions

  1. What is globalization? What are the various ways of thinking about globalization?
  2. How do EcoJustice scholars approach the study of globalization? Why do they argue that globalization is imposed and not inevitable?
  3. What does the discourse of “progress” have to do with globalization?
  4. What is an “occupier mentality?” How is it created within a logic of domination and value hierarchies?
  5. What do mainstream definitions of globalization ignore?
  6. Compare the two conflicting paradigms of resistance to globalization. Why is the first paradigm considered anthropocentric?
  7. Define the “environmental commons?”
  8. Define the “cultural commons?”
  9. What is the relationship between the commons, an ecology of Mind, and eco-ethical consciousness?
  10.  Why is important to recognize that the commons are not owned?
  11. How is “systemic wisdom” related to the commons?
  12.  How are the commons related to self-sufficiency?
  13. What is enclosure?
  14. What are the historical events described in the chapter related to “enclosure?” What are some historical social and ecological consequences of enclosure?
  15.  What are some modern examples of enclosure? What are the social and ecological consequences?
  16.  How does enclosure relate to “privatization?”
  17. How is enclosure related to discourses of “progress?”
  18. How is enclosure rooted in anthropocentrism and individualism?
  19.  What is the relationship between enclosure, privatization, and deficit thinking?
  20.  How is enclosure related to commodification? What do the authors mean when they say enclosure of the commons is both “material and ideological?”
  21. How does the discourse of progress and the metaphor of development lead to the idea that “West is best?” Who does this benefit?
  22. What are some ecological consequences of “West is best?”
  23.  What does it mean to “develop” a nation? How might education be used as a tool in that process?
  24.  List the “institutions of progress” discussed in the chapter, their history, and how they participate in manufacturing an ideology of development.
  25. How do GATT and WTO create rules that benefit the wealthy countries? What are some of the social and environmental consequences?
  26. How do “Structural Adjustment Programs” of the IMF hurt the people of the South?
  27. What is NAFTA? Why do the authors refer to it as “a treaty of domination?”
  28.  How has NAFTA contributed to impoverishment? How is NAFTA related to the U.S. immigration issue?
  29. What is meant by “neocolonialism?”
  30. Contrast a monoculture with a healthy ecosystem.
  31. Why is biodiversity so important?
  32.  What is the impact of globalization on food production?
  33.  How is our dependence on fossil fuel related to globalization?
  34. How do schools reproduce globalization?
  35. How is Monsanto’s control of seeds an example of enclosure?
  36. What is “biopiracy?” Give some examples.
  37. How has Detroit responded to the devastation of de-industrialization?
  38. Why has Cuba become an example of sustainable farming?
  39. How has modernity changed Ladakh?
  40. What parallels can you see in the water stories of Michigan and Bolivia?
  41. How does the NAFTA treaty relate to the Zapatista rebellion?

Additional Reading

Books and Essays

Bigelow, W. & Peterson, R. (Eds.). (2002). Rethinking globalization: teaching for justice
in an unjust world. Milwaukee, MN: Rethinking Schools.
Ecologist, The. (1994). Whose common future: Reclaiming the commons. Environment and Urbanization, 6, 106–130.
Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. New York, NY: Oxford Univeristy Press.
Kloppenburg, J. R. (2004). First the seed: The political economy of plant biotechnology, 1492-2000. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Mander, J., & Goldsmith, E. (1996). The case against the global economy: And for a turn toward the local. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books.
Mander, J. & Tauli-Corpuz, V. (2006). Paradigm wars: Indigenous people's resistance to
globalization. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books.
Pollan, M. (2006). The omnivore's dilemma: A natural history of four meals. New York, NY: Penguin Press.
Sachs, W. (1992). The Development dictionary: A guide to knowledge as power. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Zed Books.
Shiva, V. (1993). Monocultures of the mind. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Zed Press.
Shiva, V. (1997). Biopiracy. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.


Cavalcanti, O. B. (1992). Life and debt. Oley, PA: Bullfrog Films.
Addresses the impact of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the
Inter-American Development Bank and current globalization policies on a developing country such as Jamaica.
Garcia, D. K. & Butler, C. L. ( 2004). The future of food. Mill Valley, CA: Lily Films.
Presents key questions about the history and politics of the introduction of
genetically modified foods into our food supply.
Maryknoll World Productions (2001). The global banquet (2001). New York, NY: Old Dog
A documentary dealing with social justice, human rights, globalization and hunger.
Morgan, F., Murphy, E. P. & Quinn, M. (2006). The power of community: How Cuba
survived peak oil. Yellow Springs, OH: Community Service, Inc.
A film about how Cubans have adapted to limited energy resources and the continued and strengthened US embargo.
Page, J., Beeman, C., Norberg-Hodge, H. & Walton, E. (1993). Ancient futures: Learning
from Ladakh. Bristol, England: International Society for Ecology and Culture.

Examines the root causes of our environmental and social crises through a look at development processes currently occurring in Ladakh, India.

Learning from Indigenous Peoples

This chapter returns to the notion of cultural diversity looking specifically at what we can learn about ecological sustainability from the wisdom and knowledges of Indigenous Peoples. We introduce our readers to the ways that cultural diversity intersects with both linguistic and bio-diversity as traditional indigenous cultures have developed their languages, their patterns of belief and behavior, including spiritual traditions in close connection to the bioregions that they have inhabited over time. We argue that it is in these ancient relationships that we find diverse ways of maintaining sustainable ways of living, ways that we would be wise to pay attention to, not in order to become like them, but rather in order to think through the problems we face.

Guiding Questions

  1. What makes a worldview “eco-centered?”
  2. Define “Indigenous.”
  3. What does it mean to “romanticize” or “exoticize” another culture? How might one avoid such problematic behavior or attitudes?
  4. What did the Apache Grandmother mean when she said “I shot her with an arrow.” And, what does this story tell us about Apache education?
  5. How are ethics communicated through place in Indigenous storytelling?
  6. What does Cajete mean when he says that the modern disciplines that form our knowledge base have been cut off from the stories that created them?
  7. What is a “holistic” approach to knowledge or to education? How is this approach connected to Indigenous spirituality?
  8. What are “original instructions?”
  9. What is unique about Indigenous ecological knowledge? What it makes it different from modern science?
  10. What do we learn about ourselves by reflecting on our relationships to animals?
  11. What do we learn about Indigenous communities through their beliefs and relations to animals? How do their relationships to animals create their sense of what it means to be human?
  12. What are language reclamation programs trying to do and why?
  13. What does it mean to “come to community on the land?”
  14. Why do some Indigenous communities reject the idea of “universal human rights?”
  15. Overall, what are the core principals at the heart of Indigenous education?

Additional Reading

Books and Essays

Cajete, G. (1994). Look to the mountain: An ecology of Indigenous education. Ashville,

NC: Kivaki Press.

Esteva, G. & Prakash, M. S. (1998). People’s power: Radical democracy for the autonomy

of their commons. In Grassroots postmodernism: Remaking the soil of cultures.

New York, NY: Zed Books.

Harrod, H. L. (2000). The animals came dancing: Native American sacred ecology and

animal kinship. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press.

Lyons, O. (2008). Listening to natural law. In M. K. Nelson (Ed.), Original

instructions: Indigenous teachings for a sustainable future (pp. 22–25). Rochester,

VT: Bear & Company.

Mohawk, J. (2008). The art of thriving in place. In M. K. Nelson (Ed.), Original

instructions: Indigenous teachings for a sustainable future (pp. 126-136).

Rochester, VT: Bear & Company.


Cullinham, J. & Raymont, P. (1993). A Long as the Rivers Flow film series. Brooklyn,

NY: Icarus Films.

Includes: Flooding in Job's Garden; The Learning Path; Starting Fire with Gunpowder; Tikingan: Time Immemorial. This seriesof five videos addresses human rights questions while examining various aspects of the Native struggle for self-determination.

Ferrero, P. (2008). Hopi: Songs of the fourth world. Harriman, N.Y.: New Day Films

A compelling study of the Hopi that captures their deep spirituality and reveals their integration of art and daily life.

Frankenstein, E. & Gmelch, E. (1992) A matter of respect. New York, NY: New Day


Portrays a diverse group of Tlingit people expressing their culture and identity and honoring their ancestors’ way of life through teaching language, harvesting and preparing traditional foods, restoring community cemeteries and dancing, carving and weaving.

Page, J., Beeman, C., Norbeg-Hodge, H. & Walton, E. (1993). Ancient futures: Learning

from Ladakh. Bristol. England: International Society for Ecology and Culture.

Examines the root causes of our environmental and social crises through a look at

development processes currently occurring in Ladakh, India.

Walker, C. (1996). Trinkets and beads. Brooklyn NY: Icarus Films.

The story of how the Huaorani struggle against “development” by a big oil company, attempting to survive the Petroleum Age on their own terms.


Dr. Greg Cajete on Rebuilding Sustainable Indigenous Communities

Teaching for the Commons: Educating for Diverse, Democratic, and Sustainable Communities

The final chapter extends the earlier discussions of the cultural and environmental commons discussed in Chapters 7 and 8 into an examination of our own commons-based practices as they still get practiced in consumer cultures. This final chapter is dedicated to introducing what it could mean to engage a pedagogy of responsibility that both uncovers the cultural and political processes we examine in this book and teaches how to revitalize the practices most important to living, sustainable communities.

Guiding Questions

  1. Reviewing chapter 7, what are cultural commons? What are environmental commons?
  2. How does the EcoJustice Dictionary define the commons?
  3. 3. Using the given definition of the commons, what aspects of the commons can you
  4. identify in each of the three stories?  Choose one aspect and explain how it exists as a part of the commons in the story.
  5. What do the authors identify as breaking the bonds of deep relationships formed in sustainable communities?
  6. Describe an “economy of affection?”  
  7. Can you identify experiences in your community that you might call part of an “economy of affection?”
  8. Describe what Ivan Illich means when he uses the terms “blessings” and “dwellings”?
  9. How does work get reframed in an “economy of affection?” Can you list out any examples of this type of work? What are three characteristics that generally result from this type of work?
  10. What role does happiness and friendship play in community? What does it grow out of?
  11. What is a result of people’s collaboration in social networks?
  12. What gets rethought when associations between wealth and happiness are shattered?
  13. Recognizing that commons consist of traditions and practices that both support and undermine healthy living relationships, identify three (although there are more) aspects of the commons that undermine healthy living relationships? 
  14. Review Ostrom’s eight elements for successfully collaborating in the commons. How do these contribute to choosing a meaningful life and healthy communities?
  15. Describe the process of “educating for the commons.”  What are some of the important elements?
  16. Read through the examples of communities revitalizing the commons. Can you identify any similar efforts to revitalize the commons in your community? If so share an example.
  17. What is a “Transition Town?”
  18. Reviewing the examples of teaching for EcoJustice and Community-Based Learning, what stands out for you as examples of educating for the commons? Choose one of the examples given and identify specific strengths.

Additional Reading

Books and Essays

Berry, W. (2002). People, land and community. In The art of the commonplace: The agragrian essays of Wendell Berry. Edited by Norman Wirzba. Washington,

DC: Shoemaker and Hoard Publishers.

Berry, W. (2005). Local knowledge in the age of information. In The way of ignorance and other essays (pp.113–126). Washington, DC: Shoemaker and Hoard


Bowers, C. A. (2006) Community-Centered approaches to revitalizing the commons. In Revitalizing the Commons: Cultural and educational sites of resistance and

affirmation (pp. 85–106). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

Ecologist, The. (1994). Whose common future: Reclaiming the commons. Environment and Urbanization, 6: 106–130.

Hawken, P. (2007). Blessed unrest: How the largest movement in the world came into being, and why no one saw it coming. New York, NY: Viking.

Prakash, M. S. (2010). Commons, common sense, and community collaboration in hard times.      PowerPlay: A Journal of Educational Justice, 2 (2). Online at


Norberg-Hodge, H. Gorelick, S. & Page, J. (2011). The economics of happiness

UK: International Society for Ecology and Culture.

Offers not only a big-picture analysis of globalization, but a powerful message of hope for the future: a systemic shift—away from globalizing economic activity and towards the local—allows us to reduce our ecological footprint while increasing human well-being.

Poppenk, M. & Poppenk, M. (2009). Grown in Detroit. Netherlands/United States: filmij.

Focuses on the urban gardening efforts managed by a public school of 300, mainly African-American, pregnant and parenting teenagers.