Vox Populi 2 – Education is key

Posted by on October 2, 2010 in Thoughts | 9 comments

Welcome to the second of what I hope will be a long series of “Vox Populi” articles on my blog, where I ask for your feedback and thoughts on a given topic. I really do depend heavily on your ideas to help formulate my own, so I decided it was time to give you, the reader, a real chance to say what you think. Hope you enjoy these short topical pieces, and please leave your feedback in the comments.

Topic 2: Education

I’ve talked about education as the key to our continued success on Earth before, and I firmly believe that to be the case. With strong education comes an ability to think critically about the present and the future, and to make decisions based on the wisdom and failures of the past.

Leonardo Da Vinci's Vetruvian Man

Leonardo Da Vinci's Vetruvian Man

However I see a trend in education coming from special interest groups, who feel that their “viewpoint” may be under threat in the education system, and they are demanding that children be taught their viewpoint, regardless of how ludicrous it may be. For example, there is a strong push in the USA in some areas of Australia for young-earth creationism and “Intelligent Design” to be taught as a science alternative to a slow universe evolution. While this holds no water as a viable alternative to the scientifically agreed ideas surrounding the origin of the earth and the universe, schools and the curriculum are under increasing pressure to accept this into the teaching curriculum amid the threats and the berating coming from these groups.

There is also a growing trend from people like the Anti-Vaxxers, who are telling us that vaccination is bad for the children, and yet we are seeing an increase in deaths related to pertussis and the like in areas where vaccination levels are low.

That said, my commitment to education is because of this understanding; with bad education comes bad decisions, and we can ill afford bad decisions in this day and age.  Major problems in our world can be avoided by better education such as population and agriculture, energy efficiency and food distribution, disease management and eradication.

We need to be stronger in our teachings. I see the viewpoint of the creationists as valid in only that it highlights that some variance in cultural upbringing and ignorance can cause people to believe the most unusual things. I’m not saying that the education we have now is by any means un-faslifyable or perfect, but that we can’t fall back on the misunderstandings of human past as a viable alternative is ludicrous.

There are those who deny all the teachings of our modern era as “conspiracy”, but don’t you think someone would notice? I mean someone with a large breadth of learning?

I’d like to hear your opinions on education. I know some of you home school your children because you fear the education system is overly influenced by the minority interests. I know some of you live in areas where vaccination is on the decrease. I know some of you live in areas where overpopulation is a problem. I know some of you have chosen alternative teaching methods such as Steiner, or have been part of it yourself growing up. I want to hear your opinions on the topic of education, the good versus the bad.

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  1. Here in Australia I think Primary education rocks. Secondary however is not education at all but ‘training for employment’.

    I moved my son from a State high school to Steiner so at least he would get a strong social education. Still though, the curriculum must be achieved and still this is based on employment.

    My son hates school, yet loves learning, so I spend a lot of time linking everyday life to learning.

    For example when the Movie 300 was out we linked it to history, to Athens and ancient Greece. Which led to Socrates, and philosophy, and the way we think… He now digs philosophy. Just about every event in our society is an opportunity to learn but high schools forever miss these opportunities.

    Recently our laws have changed. Now we must keep our kids in school or the government will fine us parents. Interestingly though, the school has no particular responsibility to engage the kids in all this and I have noted, on an incidental level, that more and more kids are being suspended/expelled etc. Funny thing about teens; they muck up if bored.

    I fear a return to more ignorance. The tighter the government turns it screws the less is the opportunity for joyful learning. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll start a new school :).

    Funnily enough to go to Steiner we moved into a shire that is known for its anti-immunisation activists and has for example one of the highest rates of whooping cough in Australia.

    And I’ve noted that those opposed really are good folk looking for alternatives. But because they are not taught how to think, how to analyse, how to ask good questions (let’s face it, we don’t learn any of this till we get to Uni; if we get there) they then accept bad info which feeds the fears thus dictating the behaviour.

    A neighbour’s baby son recently went into febrile convulsion and indeed needed CPR. He and his partner refuse immunisations and refuse to use paracetamol.

    For a while as he was telling me all this, I just wanted to slap him. But then I realised he really believes that medication is more dangerous than febrile convulsions. Only education can change that. Let me rephrase. Only decent education can change that.

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  2. I have some rather unformed thoughts about education. I wonder, IS more education “the solution”? This sounds like heresy to some of us who buy into the modernist mythology of progress. (Mythology in the sense of ‘a story we tell ourselves’, the term need not be derogatory.) Lest I be decried as some sort of Luddite, I’m pursuing postgraduate education, and my fundamental position is “hell yes, we do need better educated people”.

    I read a comment that the 2nd World War was fought between the most highly educated nations of their time. Currently a US-led consortium of highly educated nations is embroiled in wars overseas, while internally people fight over whether to legalise gay marriage or whether climate change is really happening. My point is that while there are idiots on both sides of a debate, there are also some highly educated people on most sides too.

    I don’t think you’re suggesting education is the ONLY thing we need. I guess I just have questions around the mythology of progress.

    I’m wondering if humans – even highly educated ones – are not merely “rational agents” who will automatically comprehend and act on everyone’s best interests if only they are presented with good reasons. I understand Adam Smith proposed his ideas around capitalism based on an idea that most people act out of self interest? (I’m not an economist.)

    Sorry, I’m presenting more questions than answers, probably not very well articulated :)

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    • Well Jonathan, it’s quite clear to me that education IS key, but the quality of the education is what is most important. If we educate people badly, they will believe fallacies. We can only depend upon what we are told by our education, be it by institutions or in self-initiated-learning, but that fact is if we do not educate, we will make bad decisions because we base our understandings on beliefs that have caused problems in the past.

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  3. Well, for what it’s worth, I believe that the onus is on the parents to guide the next generation in free-thought, ethics, critical thinking etc etc etc. That way we’re assured of an extra-curricular education that complements the cookie-cutter mentality of the formal system with an individual-based approach. But this is pie in the sky stuff, because not all parents have the time (inclination?) for this, and must rely fully on the school system, hoping that things turn out for the best come graduation time(providing the child gets that far). All I can say is that I for one intend to make this effort with my son. Wish me luck!

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  4. Education is certainly the Key.

    The problem is quite subtle. We all probably went through a system where at primary school we experienced Christmas and Easter pagents and never once would it have been suggested that these stories were based on myths just like the Greek myths for example. Later our high school History classes never expanded on the mesopotamian influence (the tora law was largely borrowed from the mesopotamian law) on the content of the old testament, we didn’t hear that the new testament was written significantly later than the life of Jesus and was very much a hearsay account, we didn’t hear that Paul invented christianity not Jesus and Paul invented the tortuous logic that “the omnipotent God” sacrificed his son to save humans because he loved them so much, there must have been an easier way for an omnipotent one you would think! we didn’t hear that the success of Christianity was significantly based on the Roman Emperor Constantine chosing it for political reasons to help bind his empire, we didn’t hear about the inquisition, the debauched Popes, the political religious wars. We didn’t hear about the Golden rule being quoted by Confuscious well before the Christ story.
    We didn’t hear much about evolution, certainly not a core subject like english, maths and history say.

    We were passively led to accept the socially acceptable position of not questioning the religious tone of our society, we were let down by those who were supposed to teach us to think.

    Now, certainly seems to be the time to revamp the content of core school courses of human history and science/biology with a view to laying out the scientificlly accepted view of Human development.

    The advances in evolutionary knowledge, fossil record, new archeological discoveries, genetics, fossil record make the scientific position almost irresistable.

    Schools need to be proactive at equiping kids to withstand the incessant bombardment of mystical, ghostly and magical claims of the popular media particularly TV and Movies.
    They need to understand the inevitability of the poker machines taking a percentage of their money, it is a certainty for example.


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    • I find it very interesting that I feel I didn’t really “learn” anything until I finished high school and was in a university. The one thing I learned at uni was how to think, how to balance information and how to extract the best possible meaning from any given situation, based upon what I discovered through research and reading. I think that this kind of self-guided learning is the best possible way for people to find the objective truths about anything, and I would be quite eager to see this style of learning extended backward into primary and high school levels. I’m not talking about the Steiner model, but I do think there is some merit in it.

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  5. Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your
    post to my blog?

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    • Sure, but make sure you link back here.

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  6. I would certainly agree with most of the points already made, especially Leesis’ comment about secondary school being ‘training for employment’. This is particularly true here in New Zealand.

    I think that the cureent formal, authoritarian model of education in most developed nations is vastly outdated. There is a massive emphasis placed on ‘facts’ rather than knowledge and those ‘facts’ will be whatever the current political entity thinks is relevant.

    We DO need stronger education. Not to produce ‘better educated’ young people, but to produce stronger thinkers at all age levels. We shouldn’t have to wait till varsity to learn the concepts of critical thinking.

    We need education in critical inquiry, philosophy and civics at all levels. We need parents to be involved in their children’s education. We need to be unafraid to speak out regarding piss-poor ideas. Most importantly, we must let go of the idea that children need to be spoonfed their education – show them something cool or wonderful and then let them rip it apart. Answer their questions with respect and patience.


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