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Dra. Susan T. Gardner


Recibió un B.Phil. y un M.Litt. de la Universidad de Oxford Inglaterra y un doctorado interdisciplinario de la Universidad de Concordia en Montreal Canadá. El Dr. Gardner es actualmente profesor de Filosofía en la Universidad de Capilano en North Vancouver, Canadá. Sus especialidades incluyen Pensamiento Crítico, Bioética, Relaciones de Género y Filosofía para Niños (P4C). Ha publicado extensamente en el campo de P4C (ver y su Critical Thinking Text, titulado Thinking Your Way to Freedom, fue publicado por Temple University Press en enero de 2009. La Dra. Gardner también es directora del Instituto de Filosofía para Niños de Vancouver ( y fue el impulsor principal para traer los campamentos de Filosofía para Niños llamados The Thinking Playground (TTP) a Vancouver en 2014 ( Ha publicado un "libro de pensamiento" para niños titulado Tinker Thinkers (2014) y es coautora de un libro para niños (con el director educativo de TTP Arthur Wolf) titulado Meeting the Ignos, que está disponible en inglés y español (Friesen, 2018). ).

Can a Sense of Collective Identity be Taught?

Climate change is knocking at the door. There have been record-breaking floods in Pakistan, summer wildfires in the Mediterranean area, and a heat wave in Europe that left many dead and strained infrastructure. With regard to climate disasters, Western Canada is pretty much the poster girl, having experienced a “heat dome” in 2021 which caused hundreds of deaths and monstrous wildfires (completely destroying a small town), which was followed by the unprecedented flooding of agricultural land caused by “atmospheric rivers,” which was then book-ended by a drought.

Despite all of this, despite the fact that global catastrophe is at our doorstep, Homo sapiens—wise beings that we are—are not only refusing to take the threat seriously, we are surreptitiously seducing the monster into our only home. In his new book, A Philosopher’s Guide to Natural Capitalism (2023), Wayne Henry asks what we ought to make of this.

He suggests that the answer is anchored in the fact that many of us see the world through different narratives, i.e., we have different values and hold different assumptions.  This makes constructive dialogue, and hence the possibility of collective action, difficult.

Henry goes on to quote Jeremy Rifkin from his book The Green New Deal (2019) who writes:

At this critical juncture in history, the Green New Deal story lines need to be put together in a coherent economic and philosophic narrative that can create a sense of our collective identity as a species and bring humanity into a new world-view, giving us a glocal heartbeat (p. 211).


And that is the topic that we would like to focus on here. Can glocal heartbeats be cultivated in educational gardens that focus on producing that harvest?

In what is to follow, we will first note that our species is rife with division. Though such “divisionist” tendencies seem moronic in the face of our enormous challenges, a closer analysis reveals that such divisionist tendencies have served Homo Sapiens well. To begin with, it is the emergent ability to divide actions on a scale of what is good and what is bad that, according to G. H. Mead, youngsters are able to become self-conscious, which, in its fully developed sense, is a differentiating characteristic of homo sapiens. As well, dividing humans into Us versus Them has served as an evolutionary force that has enhanced our capacity for ingroup co-operation. In addition, Capitalism, an economic system that, though it has generated an unimaginable bounty, nonetheless, creates an atmosphere in which we are divided against each other as competitors. And then there is the birth of virtual reality that, despite enhancing our connectedness, has nonetheless created a new economy of competitive status that facilitates hard divisions between groups. All of this, in turn, has helped to “habitize” a particularly vicious form of divisiveness.

Still, Homo sapiens have survived and flourished for millions of years, not despite of, but in many ways, because of, our habits of divisiveness. However, our collective challenges now seem too great to ignore the deadly threat that our “divisionist” tendencies now pose.

It is against this assumption that it will be argued that we need an educative emergency plan that has the potential to inaugurate a remedial “culture of inquiry” that has within it the seeds of spawning the pervasive growth of collective identity. Such a plan, we suggest, might get its bearings from the following headings: 1) Acknowledging the emergency; 2) Hanging on to truth; 3) Knowing what “reasonable” looks like; 4) Couching interpersonal dialogue; 5) Painting a “plural” image of individuals.

That great educators were once considered leaders is evidenced by the distinguished universities of old and the once-flourishing discipline of philosophy. Our economic freight train, however, traveling at warp speed, has thrown educators into the enabling caboose. Our present emergency suggests that educators climb back into the driver seat and unite in an effort to promote a culture of inquiry, and with it a pervasive sense of collective identity—something that may not be sufficient but is most certainly necessary if we are to meet the challenges ahead. 

The challenge of inequity:

How to negotiate a world of “haves” and “have-nots.”

The world will always be one of “haves” and “have nots.” Whether the measurement is wealth, power, health, honour, education, attentive parenting, nourishing food, clean water, physical ability, artistic ability, brain power, intimacy, friendships, tribal association, or even sheer luck, there will always be those who are in a “better” position than others.

For much of human history, this sort of inequity was taken as a given—a fact of life that is true of all animate nature. However, as reflection on the human condition became more prominent, arguments that some forms of inequity, particularly economic inequity, can be ameliorated began to emerge—with Marxism, perhaps, being the most notable.

While the radical economic equity anticipated by early Marxists never found solid footing, nonetheless, many people have embraced the belief that attempting to alleviate economic inequity is a worthy goal.

This is the topic of the present paper. We will begin by first noting that “inequity aversion” is an attitude that is shared with some higher primates. After then noting that Plato advocated a society in which inequity is “built in,” and that societies have lived for centuries on the backbone of class and caste systems, we will explore why persistent inequity in a democratic society which is founded on the assumption of socioeconomic mobility can provoke a tsunami of negative emotions, including the sort of virtue signalling that does little to ameliorate the problem, but a lot to destabilize the foundations on which a democratic society is built. 

This will then lead us to the question of how best one ought to respond if, on the one hand, one finds inequity intolerable, but on the other, recognizes that furiously denouncing inequity does little to solve the problem but much to threaten the very foundation on which the possibility of living with democratically fuelled “less inequity” is founded.

We will begin first by stressing that economic inequity is just one amongst a gazillion wicked problems that humans face and, since we all benefit from a division of labour, we ought not to feel guilty, nor are we justifiably shamed, for not focusing our energies on this one issue. However, for those whose passion is indeed to attempt to alleviate the worst harms of economic inequity, we will then review several studies that suggest that recognizing how people subjectively register economic inequity will be important if one is to attract others to the cause. We will then reflect on the work by Charles Taylor who suggests that to be effective, change-makers must strive to articulate a positive vision that speaks to the collective imagination—to give voice to a message that has the intentional potential to attract many from across the political/social spectrum to the cause. This will be followed by a brief overview on how to distinguish between “cheap talk” and “costly signals” so as to avoid being weighed down by freeloaders who want to own the talk but not do the walk. We will then make a case, leaning on the works of Viktor Frankl, that it is important for us all to learn how to be tragically optimistic even in the face of wicked problems—a personality trait that modern-day academics often refer to as “grit.” Finally, it will be argued that it is crucial for educators, who are inevitably in the trenches since they are helping to mold the next generation of change-makers, to educate so that their charges not only get into the habit of dialoguing across difference and so acquire the skill to speak to the collective imagination, but as well, that they educate for optimism of the tragic sort—a way to being in the world that arms individuals with the “grit” to do their part in helping to move humanity toward an ever brighter future—even in the face of potentially discouraging challenges.

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