The education factory

The exchange on yesterday’s post about the importance of ‘Open’ schools and organisations took me to read John Dewey’s Pedagogical Creed of 1897 – it’s well worth reading in full:

“With the advent of democracy and modern industrial conditions, it is impossible to foretell definitely just what civilization will be twenty years from now. Hence it is impossible to prepare the child for any precise set of conditions. To prepare him for the future life means to give him command of himself; it means so to train him that he will have the full and ready use of all his capacities; that his eye and ear and hand may be tools ready to command, that his judgment may be capable of grasping the conditions under which it has to work, and the executive forces be trained to act economically and efficiently.

“I believe that much of present education fails because it neglects this fundamental principle of the school as a form of community life. It conceives the school as a place where certain information is to be given, where certain lessons are to be ]earned, or where certain habits are to be formed. The value of these is conceived as lying largely in the remote future; the child must do these things for the sake of something else he is to do; they are mere preparation. As a result they do not become a part of the life experience of the child and so are not truly educative.”

And again, I recommend Open by David Price – it’s about work as well as education, by someone who is frustrated that our post-post-industrial societies cling stubbornly the mass-production model of learning. We churn out factory-processed young people and expect them to work at the frontier of the high-tech, creative economy – no wonder everyone is getting worried about robots, who are better than humans at the factory tasks.

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4 thoughts on “The education factory

  1. It was around fifty or more years ago that I read Dewey, while the memory went into the attic the lessons still hung around in the mind. In retrospect what Dewey was driving at in terms of the capability of the young was hijacked by the let do and let it all hang out hippy and friends then in the education world. So just as those who had education as a set of drills they too did not realise how to realise the capabilities of the young. There were some minority and particular educationists who did have the message but their work was lost in the fog of philosophical conflict.

  2. Have you heard of David Ellermans’s book Helping People Help Themselves? He draws on the work of Dewey and a range of other thinkers from different fields (such as Hirchsman and Kierkegaard) who have all grappled with what he frames as the problem of ‘autonomy-respecting’ help (or helping people help themselves). How can we provide help without undermining people’s innate motivation or creating dependency? It’s of particular relevance in education, and development – the context Ellerman examines – but it’s really a fundamental dilemma of social relations, and definitely merits Ellermans’s forensic exploration. Highly recommended.