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From Footprints to Thoughtprints

Originally appears in the Winter 2010-2011 issue

You are chained inside a cave.  You have been held immobile since birth, your gaze locked upon shadows projected on a wall.  In such a condition, would you take these shadows for anything but the truthThis provocative question was put to us over two thousand years ago by the Greek philosopher Plato.

Now imagine you are somehow freed.  You stand up.  You look around at the burning fire and moving figures casting these shadows.  For the first time, you recognize your once taken-for-granted “truth” as only one perspective among many.

What does this have to do with environmental education?  Trade the cave for the classroom, the shadows for such notions as “natural resources”, and the shackles for a science-soaked curriculum.  Plato’s allegory, then, gives us a powerful framework with which to discuss our practice.1

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Stephen Goobie is Vice Principal and teacher at Bodwell High School, an international school in North Vancouver, British Columbia which promotes cross-cultural understanding.  He is also a director of Cool North Shore, a regional climate change advocacy group, and is currently developing the Ecological Thoughtprint Analysis Tool for use by educators.  Stephen may be contacted at