Here is an audio teaser for Chapter One of the book Space Education: Preparing Students for Humanity's Multi-Planet Future by our cofounder Dr. Mark Wagner.
Chapter One Introduction (Audio)
As the earliest study conducted for this book, the following paper is also an appropriate first chapter. It serves two purposes that provide a foundation for the rest of the collection.
First, it begins with a literature review that addresses the fundamental why behind the book. Preparing students for humanity’s multi-planet future isn’t just about training future astronauts or improving workforce development for the growing space economy; it’s about benefits for all of humanity, including our long-term future - and the future of the entire terrestrial biosphere. If life is to survive on Earth and thrive throughout the solar system and beyond, it will be humans (or the successors we create) who will take it there. This is an historic inflection point, with a staggering breadth of possible futures ahead of us, from fully embracing this long term challenge... to the total annihilation of all life on Earth.
With the opportunity to protect life and project it into the universe established as a guiding purpose, the paper then addresses the fundamental question of how best to educate students to participate in the historic decades ahead. Expert opinions are synthesized to reveal themes that are not surprising, given my experience as an (admittedly impatient) educational technologist. Even with all the technology in schools today, and all of the focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) or even STEAM (including the Arts), most schools are not focused on student exploration, testing of hypotheses, and creation of new solutions. Instead, they are locked into an Industrial Age model where students move from class to class as teachers fill them with new knowledge. Rows of desks where students copy notes provided by the elder in the room can be traced back to monks in the Middle Ages, and should be considered a medieval model of passing on knowledge. Education researchers have known for at least a century (since John Dewey’s foundational work) that a more active model of learning is more effective, allowing students to engage problems in an authentic way, creating their own meaning as they build their own internal understanding of the world. Naturally, flexible problem-solving will be important both to the first humans to migrate to other worlds and to those who dedicate their lives to solving the many near-intractable problems here on Earth.
In addition to establishing the need for space exploration and for better schools more suited to the purpose, this first paper also introduces many of the themes of the book, including the Overview Effect, the Law of Space Abundance, and the importance of both philosophy and science fiction as inspiration for designing schools of the future. We will need graduates more like the well-rounded Starfleet officers of Star Trek, ready to wrestle with technical and ethical dilemmas, and less like the nineteenth- century factory workers, ready to follow orders, but not to be original thinkers.. Ultimately, I hope this paper serves as inspiration and justification for reading on to explore the detailed analysis in later chapters.
Explore a complete Space Education Curriculum developed by Dr. Mark Wagner for high schools - it's a free and open education resource available to students, teachers, and enthusiasts everywhere.