Spaceship Earth


‘Our little Spaceship Earth is only eight thousand miles in diameter, which is almost a negligible dimension in the great vastness of space. Our nearest star – our energy-supplying mother-ship, the Sun – is ninety-two million miles away, and the next nearest star is one hundred thousand times further away. […] Our little Spaceship Earth is right now traveling at sixty thousand miles an hour around the sun and is also spinning axially […]. That is a whole lot of spin and zip’, writes Richard Buckminster Fuller (1969).  ‘Spaceship Earth was so extraordinarily well invented and designed that to our knowledge humans have been on board it for two million years not even knowing that they were on board a ship’.

‘Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth’, continues Fuller, ‘and that is that no instruction book came with it.’

Nevertheless, generation after generation, young Earthians join the crew with no choice other than to trust the orientation classes received from those who arrived here just a few decades earlier… What should their orientation classes be like? Where are the instructions to be sourced from? We have the seemingly safe choice of sourcing the training structures from the ways in which we ourselves used to be trained. But is this choice really all that safe for the ones we teach?

Between the care for the life and future of a single young individual and the big-picture perspective of taking care of the Earth, there is a vast expanse. The challenge that our Buckminster College sets out to undertake is to systematically question and evolve our educational practices in the prism of this expanse—and to dare to grow.

We set out to responsibly reinvent the educational affordances for the formative years of human adolescence. As a first step, we undertake an interdisciplinary research project and unleash our creativity in novel enrichment and adventure formats.

Simultaneously, we are preparing to launch an ambitious secondary school project suitable for young people whose learning styles and needs demand interdisciplinary big-picture thinking and require a psychologically savvy holding environment. Our comprehensive ‘Spaceship Earth’ curriculum is academically demanding and designed to guide the cognitive development of our learners along accelerated, asynchronous, and divergent learning trajectories.

The challenge we undertake at Buckminster College is to navigate our educational practices between what seems like opposing paths. One safeguards the traditions and wisdom inherited from past generations. It emphasises the necessity of responsible belonging, as well as the high moral value of diligent expertise and mastery. There might be no single instruction manual for the human condition, but there are thousands of thousands of volumes detailing various attempts at figuring it out. Being a literate grownup means having an access key to that monumental library. The other path expresses the daring wisdom of unhindered individuality and uniqueness, reminding us that the spirit of adventure and exploration is the deepest of human traditions. It must be carefully cultivated.

Weaving a golden path between exploration and belonging, between the well-tested and the unknown, is a paramount mark of our civilisation—and of our times. Partaking in this challenge, Buckminster College is like any other place on Earth: a microcosm of the universal human adventure.

Marta Lenartowicz