Sacred World Outlook and the Curriculum: Ecological Perspectives and Contemplative Practice

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Mitchell, Jacqueline
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Mount Saint Vincent University
This thesis explores an alternative worldview, sacred world outlook, as a foundation for an educational approach that integrates contemplative practice with an ecological perspective. At its heart is a connection to, and a reverence for all life. The importance of place-based and culturally relevant curricula is central to the approach and the thesis acknowledges the significant contribution of Indigenous knowledge to its evolution. The thesis further explores how holistic and contemplative pedagogical practices are a foundation for a curriculum that furthers a profound and heartfelt understanding of the interrelationship and interdependence of all phenomena. It is proposed that such an understanding is vital to the education of current and future generation of students in order to relate to, and begin to resolve, the ecological and humanitarian crises we face in the world at present. It is suggested that the introduction of contemplative practice into the curriculum and its implementation, not only as a personal practice but also as a teacher practice and a pedagogical approach, opens possibilities of a a genuine commitment to action that cuts through the assumptions of mainstream Western culture—assumptions that further the growth economy and consumerism and the destruction of the environment, and which underpin an approach to education that furthers such views and practices. The perspective investigated in this thesis is based on 20 years of teaching experience and curriculum design in various cultural contexts, including a recent curriculum design project in Bhutan for young Buddhist monks. The study employs the structural approach of View, Meditation and Action, derived from Buddhist tradition, as a lens to examine the following questions: In the context of curriculum, what does sacred world outlook as an alternative worldview offer to educators and their students? How is the sacred world outlook in the curriculum informed by an ecological perspective and supported by contemplative practice? And, how has my understanding of the role of place and culture in education been shaped by my experience as an educator in various contexts and as a long time Buddhist practitioner? The importance of storytelling to this approach is highlighted by the insertion of autobiographical “vignettes” throughout the narrative, that illustrate and enrich the theoretical aspect of the study.
Sacred world outlook, contemplative practice, ecological perspective