REBLOG: Education

It begins with the question ‘what is education?’ Is going to school the same thing? Has it ever been? There was a time, not that long ago, when there weren’t any schools. So what are they if not a social construct and in the extreme a convenience? And does the same thing extend to our ‘institutions of higher education’ where our finest minds are supposed to reside? Different cultures have approached ‘education’ in different ways. Some nations favour behaviourism and the transmission of knowledge, others make the unlikely claim that their schools are based around creativity. Teachers proudly proclaim they are all learners, but is this just rhetoric, the language of the moment, prompted by whichever group is in power? ‘Education’ is now in the remit of the professional teacher, who sadly responds to the agendas, desires and wants of the political landscape. This is through no fault of their own and it is ironic that political discourse dominates educational choices. In the west a consumer approach to education exists, gradually developing since the war and going hand in hand with the growth of consumer culture generally. When a young, enthusiastic adult enters the world of education as a teacher they have to fight the agendas of overbearing politicians and it probably takes a few years before a sense of powerlessness sets in and a grim realisation that there were good reasons that the teachers that they remember from school seemed limited in what they said and did. Governments repeatedly attempt to reform the formal educational landscape, each putting their stamp on what has been determined an important vote earner, and the result in the UK has been a system full of contradiction, whose cumulative effect has been to destroy the soul and purpose of the teacher. This may seem an embellishment and an overstatement but it is not. Whilst we proudly proclaim there is nothing more important than the education of our young, remember Blair’s ‘education, education, education’ speech, we do not invest and support our teachers. Instead we deride them: they can’t do, they teach. This is so wrong it is hard not to overstate how wrong it is. Schools are not a place where anyone wants to be, not staff and not pupils. This needs to change, and not in a small way but in a massive one, which might require a seismic cultural shift. Way back, in the aeons of history, education was treated differently. The Greeks and the arab world saw it as the bringing forth of something already embedded in human nature. They believed a man could not be happy unless he was educated. Of course this has much to do with what one thinks education is, but it certainly isn’t the consumerist version which all of us seem to think it is. Phrases like the ‘knowledge economy’ and other buzz words reveal the intricate system of impression management which plagues our pedagogical world. Facts are taken in isolation and out of their contexts then held up as certainties. Our world is deemed a black and white one and we pass this message on to our young, though there is much evidence to convince that the opposite is true, that there are no absolutes or certainties. When school leaving age is reached one leaves in the certainty that there are answers to be found, only to be denied such a simple interpretation of the life we lead. Instead we face the realities of a relativist world, one of liquid modernity, which flows from shape to shape, and the secure knowledge we have been given is suddenly questionable, likely to evaporate and disappear. Seen in this light school can be a danger, offering a false sense of security. The confidence we have given to our young isn’t a secure one, it is something which can dissolve at any moment and invariably does.

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