Visions of the Future: Why We Need to Teach for Tomorrow Trentham Books, London, 1995
Visions of the Future is one of the most useful additions to the futures education literature in recent years, put out by Trentham in an effective and attractive package. The first couple of chapters outline a rationale for thinking ahead and also introduce some of the elements of futures studies, including images of the future. A review of adults’ and young people’s views suggest that ‘images of the future in the western world often hinge narrowly around scientific and technological developments, sometimes seen as beneficial, but more often as dystopian’. They add, ‘it is as if science and technology have a life of their own which the ordinary citizen feels she can neither understand nor control’ (p 51).
The next three chapters outline the results of a survey of some 400 British students aged from 7 to 18. Gender appears as a major factor in determining attitudes to, and images of, the future. Boys appeared more accepting of a technological future than girls. The latter tend to stress personal relationships much more strongly. However, ‘boys seem to be struggling more than girls to maintain a sense of purpose in the face of massive change’ (p 107). Under ‘implications for schools’ the authors comment that ‘whilst pupils’ specific hopes and fears vary according to their age, what is consistent is their concern about the future and their wish to consider this more seriously in school’ (p 107). This is a key insight because it supports the view that young people respond positively to the option of embracing futures studies within their education. In summary, it appears that ‘whatever future pupils hope for … they do not generally expect it to come about. They fear that the world will be essentially the same or worse than today’. Such a result accurately reflects the prevailing cultural pessimism of the time.
However, Visions of the Future does not end on a pessimistic note. In one of the two final chapters the authors discuss two innovations in futures education taking place in the UK and Australia. The former is a pilot project called Choices for Britain; the other is a new, four semester Board subject in Queensland, called Futures. The final chapter outlines a basis for envisioning the future, drawing on such sources as the utopian tradition, new social movements and futures workshops. Overall these final chapters counteract the pessimism of the survey by showing that there are indeed a range of methods and resources for negotiating difficult times. In short, this is a timely and useful book which can be heartily recommended to all those interested in envisaging viable futures and then working toward them.
The ABN Report, 1994.