At the intersection of society and self is 'Futures and Citizenship'

This term, cohort 1 have been dreaming, being, and participating in the Futures and Citizenship core course alongside internships, independent study, and other projects. Wayfinding Academy Faculty member Sarah Iannarone led this course. 

This term, students explored difficult questions about the future and the common good with the goal of creating a learning experience that allow and encourage students to examine their personal role in creating a better world. 

As we anticipated the future, we started from the premise that our individual future is tied up with the future of all of us—and with the future of the planet. Through immersive, interactive, and engaging course delivery, students discovered how to offer hope and offer the world by confronting challenges of citizenship in the world with courage and imagination, developing a deeper understanding of sustainability through environmental science, and discovering the power of social movements to solve environmental problems. Students considered Futures issues by asking questions such as: 

What kind of world will you enter when you leave the Wayfinding Academy? 
How about 50 years down the line (as you near retirement, if such a concept still exists)? 
What kind of a world will your great-grandchildren inhabit? 
What is the long range future of the human race? Of the planet (given global warming, for example)?
How would you describe the short- and long-range futures from personal, economic, political, social, environmental and spiritual standpoints?

Citizenship is about power and participation, creating the good (or the best possible) society, involving the duties of citizenship, the nature of leadership and ethical values grounding decisions about authority, obedience and resistance. As the students explored citizenship issues, they addressed perennial questions including: 

What is justice? 
What is freedom? 
What duties does the citizen owe to the state? 
What does the state owe to citizens? 
What are the qualities of a good leader? 
When does society have the right/duty to dictate behavior and values and when does the individual have the right/duty to resist societal norms? What ethical principles guide these decisions? 
Are there universal principles that apply in all societies/situations? Or is ethics relative to time, place, and circumstance?

During the 12 weeks, the students learned through course materials including increasing insight texts and film, individual assignments such as writing their own manifesto and obituary, a guest lecture by science teacher and community activist Rex Burkholder, a visit to meet at Milwaukie City Hall with Mayor Mark Gamba, a “Local Government” scavenger hunt in downtown Portland, attended a Portland City Council meeting in the Jade District, and volunteered two service service learning days: one at Hazelnut Grove intentional community for the homeless, and the other at Jean’s Farm during the Village Building Convergence. Their final class project as a group was to draft the charter for Wayfinding’s very first student government! All learnings and experiences each week were connected to a specific theme with students together on campus on class per week and out in the world the others.

The 9 courses in the core curriculum at Wayfinding are equally focused on “self” and “society”. So far this year, students took 5 courses including the Engaging with Information course (see more here) to get their “society” fix and the Understanding Ourselves and Others course (see more here) to get their “self” fix. By helping students synthetically about the future, the nature of society and their role in creating the future by connecting it to real life issues, “society” and “self” connect and intersect to wrap up the course of study in year one.

Photo credit: Wayfinding Student Clara Burros

Sarah Iannarone is the Associate Director of First Stop Portland, a program she helped develop in 2008 while a doctoral student in the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University. First Stop hosts visiting delegations from around the world who travel to Portland to exchange policies and best practices with Portland's "Green Brain Trust.” Her areas of expertise include social equity, urban placemaking, smart cities, climate action planning, and sustainable development. Her doctoral research examines how cities & regions exchange ideas and practical wisdom to become more sustainable, more resilient places.