Elizabeth Losh of University of California San Diego contends that it is a mistake to view education as a product and not as a process. But even this is stopping short, because the question, process towards what, also must be asked. Burying ourselves in the process paradigm, powerful as it is, may obscure our inability to find a purpose. Many of today's debates centre around the question - education for what - and not answering this adequately may inevitably lead to this idea of education-as-a-pill.
Indeed, the purpose question can be limiting too. The proposition, education is for an employment, is presented as a self-evident and universal truth all too commonly. While an education-for-employment must undoubtedly have its place in a modern economy, in many ways, this also serves as the key rationale for stripping education from its all other functions, that of joy, discovery and of being, and this is the process element Professor Losh is concerned about. Besides, this is the end not means approach, which may undermine the importance of the means, and cause an irrational stampede towards credentialising, undermining the whole business of education.
Also, the purpose question is not easy to answer. We are well past those days when education provided certainty, theological or class-based. In a secular, post-national world, commercial employment is perhaps the only certainty one could look at - though this may draw one into the vortex of eventual pointlessness we just described. To add to this already existing problem, the shape and scope of commercial employment isn't clear as well: For all purposes and intent, we are building a superstar economy where middle class employment, that most education systems prepare us for as of today, will become significantly limited. As Tyler Cowen or Tom Friedman will tell us,"the average is over".
Also, we have somehow evaded the question of purpose of education, being caught out in the binary of process or product, wherein education is either about the activities but not an end, or the narrow objective of employment of some kind. However, the issues that challenge the definition of purpose of education reaffirm the purpose question in a roundabout way. If the world is becoming more uncertain, the educated are far more prepared to grapple with the uncertainty: This is, in a way, the purpose of education, being able to take the risk, being able to live with it.
No one is celebrating the death of the middle class economy because the pain it brings, but it is best to prepare for it. Middle classes are doomed anyway: If we continue down the road we are on, of globalisation, automation and financialisation, they may not have a place in that brave new world; nor would it exist in the current form, if we are forced to embrace a different order, constrained by social or environmental limits. The way in, surviving the super-class, needs a big risk, of leaping into the world of continuous reinvention. The way out - escaping the consumer ethic and imagining a world of restraint and self-reliance - is also predicated on big risks and departure from the usual. Either way, the uncertainty, about the world outside and choices inside, is key to survival and progress as we go along.
Right now, education is sold as the snake oil that provides certainty. Everyone seems to know that this is bunk, no one wants to question it because that takes away the last iota of false certainty that we live with. I contend that this is almost why we don't want to open the question of purpose of education, and would rather limit ourselves to other limited claims, because engaging in such a topic is a risk.
But education is a risk. As we look to the future, what it meant, at its loftiest, in the past: Education is about overcoming the fear of freedom. It is about getting comfortable with the dislocations and uncertainties that the future will almost certainly impose upon us. Education, in that sense, is not a pill that can make our world comfortable and guarantee us a lifetime of employment; nor is it a process that can keep us relevant and in our place forever. It is a risk that one takes, with oneself, as it shakes up the comfort and all the cozy assumptions we have made or were handed down; it allows us to see the world around us not as a given, but as a dynamic conversation; it makes us leave our spectator's seat and become a player; it makes us resist when resistance is fraught with risks.
This isn't usual or expected, indeed. Education was once the sure way to a middle class life. It was about certainty. But as middle class life, as it was in the industrial times, disappears, clinging to the same formula is pointless. The promise of education - that it leads to a certain kind of life - may be dead now, though the moment of education, as a start-point for engagement with the world one can help shape, has finally arrived.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.