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Education’s place within Society

This could go a number of ways. So far in talking about education I’ve sketched out some challenges (Education, Society & the Individual), and then taken a broader philosophical view (Writings on Education); which leads me here.

I could take the perspective of how education arose and progressed toward the form we now know; looking at industrialisation, welfare, and the changing nature of a system seeking to extricate learning from its religious trappings, redress inequality, and build a stable and “successful” society. In that light, possibly looking at the increasing power of market forces; attempts at social engineering; or a systemic model that seems to subsume education into the balance sheet of social economics as a whole.

Alternatively, I could focus on the perception of education and the status it holds within society: the social value we place on learning, knowledge, self-development, independence, and understanding. The esteem in which educators are held and the respect accorded them by legislators, parents, or the young. Maybe asking what social attitudes are developing towards the privilege of education and the creative responsibility of both knowledge and power; and to what extent we are using these precious resources wisely, reverently, respectfully.

Without knowledge of the path humanity has taken, of the fierce physical or intellectual battles fought for the bodies of understanding we hold, on what ground does society stand? Are we happy to detach ourselves self-assuredly from what’s gone before, looking only to our own economic opportunities and various illusions of security? What is the right way to relate ourselves to life, unfold our capacities, and rightly assess the world we are walking into and those we find around us?

Of course, education fits within society and our collective sense of what’s important; and in facing up to the myriad developments of recent history, we undoubtedly face challenges and consequences.

To offer my perspective, I wish education could be freer; for example, from external influences such as economics or government policy. Because, for me, the knowledge and understanding spoken of above is a neutral asset. I don’t see education as merely funnelling new people into existing social and economic systems; but as equipping them to fully understand, appreciate, critique, and reshape that society. Without that degree of freedom, independence, and responsibility I’m unsure society can be truly resilient or responsive.

It seems we must recreate the basis for society with each generation, else face losing the threads that inform and sustain our way of life. As explored in “Education’s End”, we exist at the end of a chain of reasoning; the resultant ideas having formed society. Our systems aren’t perfect, and paths taken have often been flawed and beset with unforeseen implications; all this is simply the best attempts of the past at shaping reality in line with our ideals.

Education, to my mind, stands in relation to a society that must constantly evolve while remaining aware of its past; with this comes the immense responsibility of understanding, accepting, and confidently moving forward.

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