Sunday, March 13, 2011

Industrial Age economics and education Part four

Much of the Western world since the late 1970’s, now quickly being followed by the remainder of the world, has been committed to laissez-faire economics, what we arguably do best but are now sensing we’ve made a mistake. However, we are now so deeply entrenched in this system, and the privileged so powerful, we can’t get off the the predetermined rails in favour of an alternate, though possibly better future. Western education has been changed and designed, modelled with selected 'scientific' evidence, to achieve what leaders in society believe all society requires of its youth - to continue the world created by their elders. Schooling has nearly always been this way, a recapitulation of what was with little real core change ultimately for the benefit of those in political and corporate power. Education has been useful in maintaining order and predictability over time, with allowances for some technical change in how things are done as long as these changes benefit the established order of things and not radically alter it in any real way. The why’s of this established order change very little over time, are to be questioned even less, and are continued from the earliest days of human civilization to the present.

But recently, with scientific psychology, sociology and biology as justification, great strides have been taken in comprehensive education of all youth in society towards a far more structured and rigid regime. The old industrial teaching method of drill and skill followed by objective evaluation methods within both hard and soft sciences and other objectified subjects has been measured, quantified and evaluated. In spite of qualitative advances over the past half century of child centred education, it has been met with such trepidation at the lack of uniformity, predictability and so presumed usefulness to society, that a wholesale retrenchment to universal systemic industrial education has occurred. Some areas of qualitative work have been taken and quickly adapted into quantitative work in order to measure that which was once understood as not measurable. Much qualitative work has been in effect nullified as wishful thinking and that which could not be measured has been ignored; for example, subjective, perhaps even spiritual, moral and ethical character education. Education was then modelled after capitalist corporate business practice, in a restructuring of education akin to the the corporate restructuring of the post 1987 market crash, as the most proficient and efficient means of getting the best out of our students through the promotion of the objective morals and ethics surrounding capitalist values of process, procedure, efficiency, self-interest, individualism, collaboration (not cooperation), hard work, cost benefit analysis, personal profit, legal systems and predictability, all of which can be best learned through immersion in the economy of grades and credentialism.

Modern education has equality of opportunity, the basic tenant of western political and economic thought since Kant and Locke, and it is up to each individual’s choice and ability to achieve as much as desired through competition in order to become the best one can be. There is no sense of equality of outcome, in fact it is actively discouraged. Planning for a future, which is nothing if not unpredictable, through a predetermined series of learned parameters is seen as something as the highest order of thinking, a bit of an oxymoron really. Creativity and intuition, hope and faith are crushed during the school years in favour of a predictable future, a blinding fear of real change and no faith in what is possible. What that does is predetermine one to maintain and recapitulate what is predictable, that is to perpetuate the present day on into the future, in favour of a potentially completely different and fearful future, at least for those in power today. This ‘different’ future may be advantageous to new characters on the scene and render the old obsolete, ergo the need to maintain what is in perpetual control of those presently in power by perpetuating the present into the future and squelch any notion of a better future other than what we have now. This, in spite of much groundbreaking research into how people really do work and create cooperatively through difference, brain research and it's ability to help us learn and shared living experience to help society to be kinder and gentler to it's citizens.

So, in the baffelgab disguise of leading edge education, where, ever more dazzling technology, potential useful employment access, individual needs and personalization as well as individualistic entrepreneurialism, objective data driven instrumentalism, efficiency and predictability are at the forefront; creativity, intuition, cooperation, and difference within the human shared lived experience are notably forgotten. What kind of future are our children allowed to imagine and create?