Hicks, D. Educating for the Future: A Practical Classroom Guide

Educating for the Future: A Practical Classroom Guide World Wide Fund for Nature, Godalming, UK, 1994

Dave Hicks is well known to British and Australian educators for his previous work on Peace Studies and World Studies. His earlier books include World Studies 8-13 (Oliver and Boyd, 1985) and Education for Peace (Routledge, 1988). Now he has moved from problem identification to problem resolution, from the global problematique to sustainable futures. In the process he has produced a rich, teacher-friendly volume that fills a long-standing gap in Futures teaching. For some years there has been a need for a practical guide of this type to cover the upper junior to lower secondary years (Years 5 to 9). Educating for the Future fulfils that need with distinction.

Part 1: Education for the Future, provides a background and context, sets out an educational rationale and explores subject and cross-curricular themes. Part 2: Classroom Activities, makes up the bulk of the book. It contains detailed classroom activities and material that can be photocopied to help students explore issues of citizenship for the 21st Century. Part 3: Teacher Support, provides four select annotated bibliographies on classroom resources, education for the future, alternative futures, and organisations and journals. At only just over 100 pages, the whole book is light and portable. It is also ring-bound to permit easy copying. A lot of care and thought has clearly gone into it.

As noted, the bulk of the book is comprised of activities, some 21 of them divided into four themes: thinking about the future, envisioning the future, choosing the future, and a sustainable future. There is thus a logical sequence of work that begins with students’ own questions, expands their thinking, helps them to consider preferences and choices and ends with the central integrating theme of sustainability. As the accompanying sample shows, each exercise is set out very clearly according to an easy-to-follow format: purpose, preparation, procedure, extension/variation and finally, curriculum. The latter section will be most useful for UK teachers since it uses the UK national curriculum framework. But teachers elsewhere will also find it useful since the overall categories are not dissimilar.

Each section is copiously illustrated with photographs, quotations, graphics, tables and children’s own work. I particularly liked the eight full-page drawings that illustrate four basic scenarios of the future: more of the same, technological fix, edge of disaster and sustainable development. Like so much else in this productive guide, I can imagine students having a lot of fun using them. Given the seriousness of some of the issues involved (one quote has the headline ‘Earth’s future in the balance say top scientists’) the book achieves an enviable lightness of tone that is entirely appropriate for the age-group it is intended for.

For those wanting to read further, the concluding bibliographies are very handy. They lead into some of the richest literature around. Books like Lester Brown’s State of the World 1994 and Lester Milbrath’s Envisaging a Sustainable Society are there alongside a range of more teacherly works. Futures, the ‘flagship’ journal of the field, is there, along with Resurgence, and the US-based World Future Society, along with the much more international and activist World Futures Studies Federation.

In short Hicks has drawn on his very considerable talent and insight into classroom practice to assemble an accessible and up-to-date guide to teaching futures. It is a pleasure to welcome it and to recommend it unreservedly. I know that teachers around the world will also welcome a book that will assist them in helping a new generation face the future with courage, hope and integrity.

The ABN Report (1994)