Can a university go to such extremes promoting environmental stewardship that it begins to distort its educational mission? Ashley Thorne of the National Association of Scholars argues that just such a thing has happened at Cal State Chico:
Chico is implementing its new “pathways” model for general education this fall, with Sustainability Studies as one option. These pathways are separate from academic majors, but students can choose to turn their pathway of choice into an interdisciplinary minor. They exist alongside other Gen Ed requirements in oral communication, writing, science, math, U.S. history, and U.S. government…
Saving university funds and conserving energy and water are worthy goals. If Chico can find ways to be more efficient with its use of financial and natural resources, it may inspire students and employees to be more thoughtful about how way they handle their own personal resources. Practical applications of eco-stewardship aside, however, Chico represents two growing campus trends. One is making sustainability an interdisciplinary subject. The other is connecting it with courses such as “The American Indian.”
We here at the National Association of Scholars have been paying close attention to the campus sustainability movement for several years. Our interest is in keeping higher education focused on liberal learning, scientific inquiry, and reasoned scholarship. We are not opposed to environmentalism in general or “sustainability” in particular. But we are worried that the sustainability movement has a tendency to tip over into the sort of advocacy that compromises the deeper purposes of higher education.
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