Adaptive thinking

November 19, 2015

Dame Julia King’s illustration of restructuring student learning around “universal challenges” such as climate change (“Climate change will take all our expertise”, Opinion, 29 October) reveals both the attraction and danger of such an approach. Yes, students should be encouraged to think beyond disciplinary boundaries about how such challenges are changing the world and what their contribution might be. But such complex “cross-cutting” issues lend themselves to multiple framings, which alter the educational challenge.

For example, to frame the challenge of climate change as “shifting to a low-carbon economy”, as King suggests, is only one way of thinking about it. One might equally well design innovative educational curricula inspired by climate change around “well-adapted societies”, “social equality”, “cultural transformation” or “participatory democracies”. All these are legitimate, but different, ways of framing what the challenge of climate change means.

What we need to teach our students about climate change and other such issues is that they have multiple meanings and implications for the contemporary world. These differences derive from different worldviews and conflicting values, and may very well challenge the dominant frame that serves entrenched paradigms and incumbent interests. This, then, would be an emancipatory curriculum, which would place human values at the centre, rather than science, technology or economics.

Mike Hulme
Professor of climate and culture
King’s College London

Send to

Letters should be sent to:

Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday. View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Reader in Politics and Policy

St Marys University, Twickenham



Professor of Anthropology

Maynooth University

Preceptor in Statistics

Harvard University

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Electrochemistry

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework