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Brief Overview of Imagining Liberatory Education Futures

July 6, 2023
By: Maria Crabtree

What if each learner could thrive in ways that mattered to them? KnowledgeWorks’ Imagining Liberatory Education Futures invites people to look ahead 20 years to imagine education systems that are liberatory. Liberatory education systems would prioritize self-determination, human potential and the right to participate in shaping the world. They would support learners in leading their own learning.

Resumen de Imaginando Futuros de la Educación Liberadora

¿Qué pasaría si cada estudiante pudiera prosperar de una manera significativa para ellos? Imaginando Futuros de la Educación Liberadora (disponible en inglés) de KnowledgeWorks invita a las personas a mirar 20 años hacia el futuro para imaginar sistemas educativos liberadores. Los sistemas educativos liberadores darían prioridad a la autodeterminación, el potencial humano y el derecho a participar en la configuración del mundo. Ayudarían a los estudiantes a guiar su propio aprendizaje. Descarga el resumen del pronóstico en español.

Confronting the Status Quo

Our world is undergoing massive shifts driven by accelerating technologies, the climate crisis and the fight for just societies. Yet education systems, like many other societal systems, have been slow to change and have reinforced patterns of inequity and injustice. A student’s academic achievement can still be predicted based on ZIP code, skin color and socioeconomic status. That does not have to be the case, and it should not be. Read Chapter One: Combatting past, present and future inertia »

A Shift from Equity to Liberation

While examples of liberatory education can be found, liberatory education systems do not yet exist and much work remains to understand how they would work. To bring liberatory education systems into being, we must first imagine what they might look like, and consider how current tensions and dilemmas will impact the extent to which systems and structures can take hold in education and sustain systemic change. Read A Brief History of Oppressive Education »

Critical Uncertainties

Two critical uncertainties will shape what liberatory education looks like in 20 years.

  1. Social Cohesion
    The extent to which people will recognize one another’s humanity, foster interconnection and respect, and be willing to work across differences for mutual well-being.
  2. Responsiveness of Public Institutions
    The extent to which various types of public institutions – backed by public funding and controlled by federal, state, city or county government – will recognize the needs and demands of their constituents and share power in creating solutions.

Read Chapter Two: Two Critical Uncertainties »

Imagining Liberatory Education

These critical uncertainties suggest four scenarios for liberatory education. Scenarios are stories about the future that help us imagine how it could be different from today. There is not one ideal future. Different people want different things for the future of education, and the same person might want different things depending on what happens in the broader world. As you read the scenarios for liberatory education, consider what they bring up for you. Read Chapter Three: Imagining Futures for Liberatory Education »

The Future Starts Now

Dismantling oppressive systems and structures of education is one of the greatest challenges education stakeholders face. It is also the most important. The only way to meet these shared challenges is together. These stories of possibility help us keep the future in mind as we make decisions today. Using scenario insights and implications we can develop next steps to move toward the liberatory education future we desire.
Read Chapter Four: Insights and Implications »
Read Chapter Five: The Future Starts Now »

Read  KnowledgeWorks’ complete forecast Imagining Liberatory Education Futures.

Apply these ideas to your work in the companion toolkit, Mapping Your Journey into Liberatory Education Futures.


Maria Crabtree
Director of Strategic Foresight Projects

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