Landscape organizes everything within sight.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Education and the masses

Bernard Mandeville writes in 1723:

Few children make any progress at school, but t the same time are capable of being employed in some business or other, so that every Hour of those poor people spent at their books is so much time lost to society.

Going to school in comparison to working is idleness, and the longer boys continue in this easy sort of life, the more unfit they’ll be, when grown up for downright labour, both as to strength and inclination.

Men who are to remain and end their days in a laborious, tiresome, and painful station of life, the sooner they are to put upon it at first, the more patiently they’ll submit to it for ever after.

-- "An Essay on the Charity Schools"

Schools discipline their students for certain forms of engagement: tedium, activity, leisure. Our own system has been described as a "forced system of prolonged adolescence" for the manufacture of "peons".

Progressive politics (in nineteenth-century American and Britain) was among the most trenchant advocates of extended mandatory schooling (so as to save the children from the mines and to provide a rationale for universal suffrage).

On the other side, liberation theology has traditionally stood on the side of informal education instead of formalized top-down education dictated from a national level.

In our era of mass distraction among pupils, of limited success with universal testing programs, and the least common denominator of educational ambition, Mandeville, Progressive politics, and Liberation Theology provide the three models most likely to be taken by argument.


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