Be educated - but in what?
This section is about education, what it is for, and what can be done to change it, if it is not fulfilling its proper role.
First let me start off by saying that how we educate people is within the context of the society in which it operates. For example, in an Islamic country, education will take on an Islamic "flavor", and in the US, it will incorporate much of what US citizens see as good about their culture - and so on. This indicates that education is not an absolute. It varies from place to place, and from culture to culture; it is "flexible" in both veracity and concepts.
However, education is much more, and goes deeper than that...
In this short and humorous video by Sir Ken Robinson, he gives an outline of how the present education system came to be, why it teaches people using the methods it does, and outlines what needs to be done to move forward.
To bolster Ken Robinson, here I describe some of my own experiences both at school when I was young, and when I trained as a Further Education Lecturer, as this may help shed more light on the subject. Of course, some of this won't apply to many, but I hope it will convey the idea that people can learn useful information outside of the conventional education system, which is not necessary for survival, or even making a financially successful life. For example, many well-known entrepreneurs today did not do well at school, but went on in some cases, to forming large international corporations.
It also brings to the forefront the notion that education and it's social environment are intimately connected.
At school, I was for the most part bored; not only with the subjects I was supposedly taught, but also by the teaching methods, and the restrained environment I was caged into for many seemingly long hours of the day. I couldn't wait to get out of there, and to be free once more. In some way I knew it was a repressive environment that had little to do with my life.
Then, as now, most of the learning I needed was learnt outside of the conventional educational environment.
Much later, I trained as a Further Education Lecturer in shall we say, a more deprived area of the country. Many of my class inmates (and I use the word advisedly) were there because the subject I taught was recommended by Benefits Agencies as suitable for young people to attend to help them get back to work.
However, for me, and some other tutors there, it was not a matter of teaching at all, it was a method of social control, to keep the young hooligans off the streets, in the hopes they might learn something in the meantime and later earn a productive living - despite their time spent in College.
The reality of teaching was far different to my expectations. Once any teaching was attempted, I could look around the class (in both my own and other teachers classes) and see the light in their eyes gradually go out as interest waned, and was finally extinguished, because the curriculum forced certain concepts, put over in a certain way, that to the many in the class was of no relevance.
That, plus the fact that most in the class did not want to be there - no matter what the subject, or how "interesting" it might be, meant it mattered little whether teaching methods were up to par or not.
Then of course, there was the marking of papers. It was a prejudice amongst some tutors I knew, that a certain underprivileged group in the classes would automatically get lower marks than the majority of the population. In fact, it was risky to give good marks to the underprivileged sector, because local factions of certain nationalist organizations went out of their way to make life uncomfortable - even threatening violence for some of those tutors who marked fairly. Of course, other tutors will have different experiences in different subjects, in different parts of the country in which they operate, but some of those who have worked with more difficult groups will understand what I mean - and more.
Thus, the conclusions from above have to be that education is bound by social constraints of many kinds, as well as a certain curriculum and format imposed from outside. The video above cannot address those issues, because they rightly belong outside of the educational sphere. However, they impact heavily on how subjects are both taught and received, so need taking into consideration.
But what about teaching the very young? In this case, the children are too young, impressionable, and innocent to know that they are essentially being conditioned into what society expects of them; not necessarily what's good for them as an individual.
An educator in particularly the under 11's, has the greatest responsibility of them all, because children in this age group cannot respond in the way older kids or adults can. They may suffer in silence not knowing how to express their internal disappointment or pain of the long wasted useless hours. Only later do they play truant, become "sickly" stay-at-home kids, turn into hooligans trying their best to disrupt the system, or develop a voice to express themselves.
Teachers too, are deprived of their skills to teach something useful by curriculums, grades, points systems, and set methods that do not even apply to half the population! There have been several good books written recently that show the teaching system currently used, does not work well for boys...
What is to be done? I think the most important part of this equation is to know and understand what is really going on. However, being aware of the issues is not enough. First, we need to think through in whose interests education serves, and then we can start to make progress in really educating people.
I will add more to this, probably one of the most important topics on this site, as time allows.