Let us consider what education is about. Simply put that would be self-realisation. I think this is a fairly non-controversial description. Education means lead out in its Latin root, leading out and self-realisation can easily be seen as consequitors. But the issue is then of course self and the realising of that self. Here is the hijack; self is now seen as wealth and accumulating wealth is the realisation.
Examine western education realistically. It is fundamentally concerned with qualifications, and what follows from qualifications - jobs and wealth. This is not in itself a particularly novel thing to say. 50 years ago people would be satisfied if at the end of their education the kids had a job to go to. But at the time some people sought options such as caring professions - changing the world was more than a Heroic catchphrase equated to saving the cheerleader. Of course those earlier world-changers were often unrealistic and their disillusion has led to generations of wealth-seekers.
Now for our young seeking wealth appears to be the only option, and this is showing in an increasing callousness of a society which can accept disadvantaging others if it means accruing more wealth. 40 years ago it was a rat-race that caring people could still co-exist with, now it is producing a generation for whom personal wealth is the goal per se.
A Door Closing?
One key area in which this negative realisation process could be altered would have been education, and knowing this education was hijacked from the educationalists. Who controls education now? Qualifications are the target. From here I can only discuss Western education in terms of British education as I do not know enough to analyse the US system. I would feel a little more authoritative in saying the same applied to IB.
In UK education exam passes through league tables have become increasingly the benchmark by which a person can be seen as educated. Examination success benchmarks are now established by government statute, and the impact of the benchmarks on schools through Ofsted. Exam boards are monitored by government agency but they have made a substantial change of approach in the last 20 years in that they are unashamedly linked with the publishers. A level maths on one board now has sponsored by Heinemann at the top of the exam paper - this is an exaggeration and is not true. Yet?
The Textbook Carrot?
Linking texts with exam curricula makes teaching easier but it vastly increases the budget especially as there is now a regular change of exam style often requiring a sitting with a different number of papers - and textbooks associated with those changes. Having worked in international education I see this harmonising of exam and publisher as greatly disadvantaging many people internationally with these increased costs being beyond the budgets of many international schools.
Globalisation in Education?
This is part of a centralising of education in line with the hegemonic centralisation of global finances. With the increasing gap between first and third world incomes, fewer and fewer third world families can afford a western-style education. Despite the fewer social issues (incumbent with the western lifestyle eg drugs etc.), these schools have difficulty functioning at the required level of education resources and few owners of these schools are driven by education and they don't want to lose their profits to the purchase of books - and in some cases the purchase of past papers.
Finance and education are controlled in the UK by an alliance between the government and the financial publishing sector harmonised by the exam boards. Within these power blocs where are the interests of education? You could argue government but observing the desire for wealth-creation in the UK does not give me heart that self-realisation through sufficiency economics, for example, has any chance of being given a fair hearing on the curriculum.
If we can accept that the new destination is wealth accumulation as opposed to self-realisation, then we need to ask:-
who is the driver? |
who are the hijackers?|
Let's begin with the drivers. Who originally were the educationalists? The elders - real historical origins. Life was experienced and then the wisdom of life was passed on. This process still happens throughout the world even in the West but not in the broader institutions of education but in the localised institutions of family. So what do Grumpy Old Men complain about? Respect. Fashion. Wastefulness. What does consumerism want? Wasteful expenditure on non-functional items, clothes and shoes that can be sold at ten times a nominal price just because of a fashion label. Consumerism targeting the young that is built around fashion industries - the movies, music and now football. Respect has moved from wisdom of the elders to the glorification of icons of consumerism. And what do these icons do? Paris Hilton defies laws. Some music dismisses half the population as bitches, and other musicians themselves glorify a gangster lifestyle. Is this wisdom? No it is consumerism. And who gains? As wisdom is not respected the sons and daughters of the wealthy can themselves become wealth-creaters and eventually wealth-accumulators. Consumerism has hijacked the wisdom of age, and turned the world into a playground for their families.
If this hijack is the problem what is the solution? And the answer quite simply is that globally there isn't a solution. The financial forces are far too strong to see a change in education policy that will lead to appropriate self-realisation as opposed to individual wealth accumulation. The financial families, the transnational companies coalesce into a consumerist system that fills the minds of the young with dreams that pervert their minds away from the traditions of stability and educational motivation. The control of their publishing counterparts ensures that they can never be educated to see the reality.
How do we deal with this as it clearly cannot be overcome in contemporary society? There are two approaches that need to be considered, the first is equality of opportunity and the second is the establishment of a legitimate curriculum.
Throughout the education system there are myths of providing equal opportunity, perhaps the most famous being Sydney Poitier in To Sir with Love or Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds. More recently I saw the Reading Room. All had the same theme - through dedication an educationalist can make a difference and even the most disadvantaged students can be successful. I believe this approach does have an element of credibility but obviously not Hollywood proportions. Teachers can make some difference but the degree of difference is the issue. Students have to be the ones to attest to this issue - and they are not likely to read this!! Firstly a teacher does not have the level of contact with students to make that much of a difference. Secondly students need an academic approach to be successful in exams, and sadly the personal environments typical of the above fictions are not conducive to such an approach. However a teacher can make some difference.
However the hijackers have recognised this. Since 1979 in the UK there has been a consistent media barrage against teachers using them as scapegoats for society's ills. Parents' evenings were always a pleasure for me. Apart from the occasional aggression, my experience with parents has generally been that of cooperation. But that cooperation has usually had to be established, and more recently that establishing has been more of a requirement.
Why should there be such a need? In a genuine education setup there should be a natural partnership between adults and children for education success. With the increasing belligerence of teenagers there should be a natural partnership between parents and teachers to cope with this belligerence. Instead the politically-inspired media have turned parents and students against teachers, and students recognising this take advantage turning the divisive screw against the teachers.
Cement a Parent-Student-Teacher Alliance
To turn fiction into fact the alliance between teachers, parents and students needs to be fashioned more to counter the prevalence of the hijackers. Students need to actively seek the support of willing teachers, not the teachers with the words and poor intentions, the genuine teachers who are looking to help. Parents need to work with the genuine teachers and not accept the word of belligerents.
However sadly the waters have been muddied further. In some cases the hardening parental attitude has been warranted. With the increasing politicisation of education school administrators have been placed under greater pressure. Being a political hot potato these administrators have not had to respond by being successful, they have had to respond by being accountable. The climate of back-watching has now pervaded throughout British education. Some unwilling teachers survive by back-watching which includes the caring rhetoric. Parents have seen this and so now don't trust - quite rightly in many cases. And the only people who rejoice in this lack of trust are the hijackers because their children get all the qualifications at the schools they pay for.
So each time the education relationship of parent-teacher-student breaks down, the hijackers have won. Even within the context of qualifications the hijackers have created an unequal scenario where their own get the qualifications. Bring trust back into the equation. Seek meaningful parent-teacher-student alliances. Work with the genuine teachers and look out for them. Students especially know who they are, they see through the b-s.
But even if there is some success in this equality of opportunity, what has happened is that someone from the "wrong" side of the tracks has achieved qualifications. Often enough those people become lynchpins in establishment scenarios, and embrace the wealth-creation perspective. These class crossovers never completely get accepted but their wealth buys them most of the image.
But that is all it is - an image. They have not obtained an education, they have just bought into the wealth
How have the kids responded?
Students' behaviour is understandable but not acceptable. Hopefully by considering an education approach that does not alienate most of the students we can at least begin to develop a scenario where students wil want to work - where they will have regained their motivation.
Let us begin by considering the links between education and the growing-up process. Nature - Education as we Grow