Empowering Students through a “Certain Kind” of Education Thirty Years On

An updated response to David Orr's What is Education For?


  • Sylvia Torti University of Utah
  • Isaac Cheek University of Utah
  • Karrin Elise Tennat
  • Adrian Torti-Feener Earlham College


Integrated Education, Ecology, General Education


Thirty years ago, environmental educator David Orr's provocative article "What is Education For? Six myths about the Foundations of Modern Education, and Six New Principles to Replace Them," prompted students and professors to question traditional conceptions and purposes of education in an era of ecological instability, a topic he continues to engage. The dilemmas described by Orr have only intensified in recent years. In this paper, we will respond to the educational assessment and principles described by Orr in “What is Education For?” and contextualize them with contemporary issues. Then, we will propose four pillars – roughly based on Orr’s principles – upon which to build a general education curriculum that equips students with tools to address modern-day ecological crises. Finally, we use the University of Utah’s Honors Integrated Minor in Ecology and Legacy as a case study of how our proposed pillars might manifest in institutions of higher education.






Peer-reviewed Submissions