In the book, Place-based learning in the global age, Gregory Smith talks about a social movement called ‘The new localism’ that has emerged as a result of the disruption of traditional community life that came about as a result of economic development. This movement recognises that economic globalisation often creates local economic, cultural and ecological damage. The new localism does not reject the market economy but rather advocates ‘place-conscious’ economic development that benefits local communities today and in the future.
Education in formal settings is often completely divorced from the concrete context of the life of the community. Learning through engaging with the local community is discarded in favour of prescribed and decontextualized classroom instruction. The underlying assumption in relation to the purpose of schooling is to prepare students to succeed in the global economy. Mass schooling or the industrial education model has aimed, from the beginning, to cultivate nationalism and provide big business with a compliant and skilled workforce.
The rootlessness of modern life, where people move around based on the demands of the economy means that we no longer ‘inhabit’ places, but merely ‘reside’ there. This means we have no real connection to the places in which we live. This is the phenomenon of ‘placelessness’ – alienation from others and a lack of participation in local political and community life. The new localism is about creating connectedness and mutuality that are the basis of community well-being.
Place-based education is a community-based effort to reconnect learning and development to the well-being of the community. Place-based education introduces learners to the skills required to regenerate and sustain local culture and community. Students are helped to understand the social and ecological processes that create healthy communities and support human life. It facilitates responsible engagement with the community.