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Education We Want, Not What Politicians Provide

By: Malgorzata Lange - @MalgoLange - Dec 10, 2014, 1:00 pm

Español “What a coincidence!” I thought when I read PanAm Post reporter Belén Marty’s interview with Canadian philosopher Stephen Hicks. My own thoughts and reflections happened to be revolving around education, specifically its relationship with freedom, diversity, and — no matter how cheesy it sounds — human happiness.

In a time when Chile is about to move through many simultaneous and structural reforms, education reform stands out for its depth and scope — but with a blatant lack of reflection on the model of education itself.

Before discussing how to carry out a reform with such deep implications, before hastily talking about the end of tuition payments, or destroying, thoughtlessly, the admission exams, we first must know the finish line: the goals of our endeavors. This will help to inspire and enhance our strategies.

One ought to determine what kind of people, in the holistic sense of the word, we want education to foster. In the end, isn’t the aim to encourage people to achieve greater autonomy and creativity through the acknowledgement of a plurality of talents, skills, aptitudes, and other unique features that color a free society?

Isn’t the education process a matter of providing a variety of tools — underline variety — that allow very different individuals to lead conscious, fulfilling, diverse, and above all free lives?

Some weeks ago I was watching a political TV show, and Chilean Education Minister Nicolás Eyzaguirre was asked about the reform’s ultimate goal. At that moment I realized no one had been thinking about the essential — the model itself. The question went unanswered; and the reform, lacking an underlying paradigm, is impotent.

A topic as sensitive and important as education reform, should be explored at this historic moment. We have a unique opportunity to debate the above and introduce mechanisms into the so-called education system that are geared towards the students — taking into consideration that each one of them is a unique and talented individual.

Even Stephen Hicks, in the interview, warns about the dangers of an education devoid of independent and autonomous thinking. He doesn’t use these words, but he refers to education-turned-indoctrination, in Kantian terms, that condemns the individual to the eternal dependence of a juvenile.

Hicks focuses on the relationship between failed education and populism. However, an education model that suppresses freedom of thought and self-esteem — a point that is oft highlighted in John Rawl’s theory of justice — brings not only populism, a danger that stems from abandoning personal and intellectual autonomy, but a variety of oppressive political systems and social solutions.

It’s no coincidence that there is a link between the rigid, disciplinary Prussian education in Germanic lands and the subsequent rise of national-socialism in the Third Reich.

Populism may be the most visible consequence, but education that standardizes and homogenizes the individual, that flattens his mind and tames the intellectual process, is a widespread phenomenon. These standardized individuals are the most suited to living in compliance with a top-down system — be it political, economic, or social — as opposed to a system that is responsive to the people.

Do you have confidence in the reformers to change such a system?

Let us debate and challenge what it means for education to be for and carried out in liberty, and not forget what Bob Marley sang: “don’t let them fool ya, or even try to school ya!”

Don’t let them fool us, or even school us…

Translated by Adam Dubove. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.

Malgorzata Lange Malgorzata Lange

Malgorzata Lange is a native of Poland who lives in Santiago de Chile. She holds degrees in political science and international Relations, and is a PhD candidate at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She is also a radio panelist on international politics issues. Follow @MalgoLange.