The subject of education has come up a couple of times so far and is of central importance in terms of the kind of society we are creating; for that reason, and in the light of Trying to understand our times and various other posts, it’s also a difficult topic to address.
Education, in principle, is the way in which we shape future generations – passing on essential skills and knowledge; sharing values, cultural artefacts, social realities; preparing individuals to find their place in our world. So clearly it’s under a lot of pressure in today’s changing realities, even without talking politics, statistics and accountability. It’s also the first point where government can really legislate on standards and address inequalities without interfering too directly into family life, and it seems a lot of complications arise from that direction.
So it’s a pretty important function, and also a pretty intense reality where everyone has their opinions and demands. More traditional folks fight to keep more classical elements, which some see as less obviously applicable to life; the economically-minded fight to prioritise qualities for the workplace; more spiritual, social or artistic types may prioritise a more human-centred, creative approach that allows individual qualities to flourish; others seem to advocate quantifiable scientific methods.
I wonder how all this appears from the child’s perspective – how they view the world into which they are being welcomed. It seems often there’s a disconnect between the organisation of the school and the realities of the family and of society; and if children hear a parent complaining at the expectations of the school – be that homework or discipline or other regulations – how does that affect the authority and respect of the teacher? Are we raising new generations to run the gauntlet between opposing realities? Is what we are doing, what we are imparting, important or something to be struggled against or belittled?
Teaching seems one of the more important, stressful, and derided professions in modern society – at the frontline between individuals and a troubled social reality of divergent opinions. Families are struggling, individuals are struggling, schools are struggling, society is struggling. Education and also Healthcare are two systems that seem to be feeling the pain of society most, as individual realities meet government functions. In both these I think the demands of our culture and society may be set against what is healthy and helpful on a personal or social level.
As I said at the outset, this is a challenge to address. Education is so tied into values, culture, reality, and hope. It’s where each individual finds and creates meaning, and comes to understand the world. It has to serve both the individual and society. It’s also an area of life where we struggle to be on the same page. It comes down to what’s important in life, what life is all about, and – as I’ve written in various ways – I’m not sure we have an answer to that yet.