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Education and Democracy

 
 
Reply Tue 22 Aug, 2006 08:36 am
By Bill Ellis

"Education and Freedom," oxymoron that it is, is probably the most important issue of the day. The world we inhabit, and the one that will be inhabited by the next generation, is shaped by what future citizens learn during their most formative years. The school/teach/educate system exemplifies, and brainwashes young people, by being authoritarian, hierarchal, and undemocratic. The inherent values of the education system are self-interest, competition, and materialism. Freedom to learn is repressed. If we want a different social system, one including freedom, then we must expose young people to freedom from their birth.

Prof. Roland Meighan of England has emphasized the fact that the word "education" denotes "to be conditioned, to believe, to perform and to act in a given way." He suggests that "learning" is a radically different activity. Charles Hayes, a proponent for autodidactism, suggests education is something given you , while Learning is something you take. Ivan Illich in "Deschooling Society" illuminated the difference and concluded that society would not improve as long a schooling brainwashed students with the staus quo. Paulo Friere in "Education for the Oppressed" urged the end of traditional schooling and the development of open minds. John Holt, after a long life of trying to fix the schools, recognized that that was the wrong road and proposed we "Teach Our Own." Manish Jain of India promotes "unlearning," that is overriding the brainwashing of schools, and critical thinking. Even those who are most involved with the education system recognize that education today doesn't fit today's needs, but few move beyond the "fix the schools" syndrome. The issue of the day is to think out of the box, and go to the roots of why we learn, how we learn, when we learn and, a secondary concern, what we learn. We need to think in terms of "learning" not "educating."

This suggests that the mantra for every individual and every organization should be: EVERY PERSON HAS THE FREEDOM, THE RIGHT, THE RESOURCES, AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN WHAT THEY WANT. WHEN THEY WANT, AND HOW THEY WANT.

This mantra demands a radical transformation of not only how we learn but of how we live and of how we govern. It outlines a basic human right and a responsibility. It does not give that right and responsibility to the government, to the parents, to the churches, or to any other social entity. It is the right of every individual. It is the responsibility of every social organization. Libraries, museum, parks, health centers, farms, factories, churches, city halls, legislatures and every other corporation and civil organization has the responsibility to provide learning opportunities for ctiizens.

This is an expression of individual freedom. Every person is free to learn, and to learn what freedom is by being free. It transforms teaching institution to learning centers or learning communities. It transforms teachers and parents into mentors used at the will of the learners. It creates a world of critical thinkers best able to participate in world affairs. It transfers the money wasted in prison like schools, to tax breaks for organizations providing learning opportunities selected by the learners. It pus the hierarchy of individual, family, community, society, and world in a more human oriented chain of command. It replaces self-interest, competition and materialism with life-long learning as the purpose of life.

It gives the people of this forum a target to develop (or not).
I had intended to add some words of support to my opening statement. but I found that Evely Lawrentce in her 1952 summary of what Frederick Froebel said in the 1979s so much better than Icould say it , that I add her piece below. BE;

Freedom the great Froebelian revolution by Evelyn Lawrence 1952

In effect, what is essential, if we are to be capable of the freedom which on any adequate social theory we need, is a philosophy of education for freedom from the start. That is the great Froebelian revolution. Capacity for freedom is something which, step by step, must be built up in us. It must represent a progressive and cumulative achievement carried forward by growth itself. Education in freedom and by freedom are essential for it, but they are simply means. The end is that education from within, by the child's many sided experience and activity continually integrated into harmonious development, which will carry him into adulthood as fully master of himself and an autonomous and responsible member of a free society.

Such an educational philosophy is then simply the carrying to completion of the freely elected common philosophy of freedom which is our most urgent social need. It no longer depends on any particular set of ultimate metaphysical beliefs (whether Froebel's or any other), but provides the fundamental platform on which the most diverse ultimate beliefs, so long only as they are compatible with tolerance of one another, can meet. And once we assume the shared value of freedom, we can confine our concern, if we wish, to the pragmatic minimum of the contrast between those conditions which will effectively safeguard it and those which, whatever nominal homage we pay to it, leave it precarious and insecure. At the best, freedom from coercion and interference in adult life comes, as we have said, too late; after living through most of our formative period from infancy to adolescence under conditions of coercion and interference, too few of us come out inwardly capable of being free.

What is even more fatal perhaps than positive educational impositions from without is the habitual disregard, in our conventional traditions of upbringing, of the demands of inward integration and growth; the lack of access to wide ranges of human experience; the lack of exercise in methods of judgement and decision; the failure to provide equipment for freedom and choice. Those who have been left through their plastic period to the fortuitous interplay of coercion and neglect, disregard, privation and frustration, and every sort of unregulated force within and without, will be only too apt to emerge at the mercy of every further strong current they may meet. This is in fact demonstrated by the ease with which even the external freedom that is one's adult "birthright" is surrendered or lost under the play of one or another form of propaganda or mass movement or mob appeal. That is the soil in which power ideologies or creeds flourish, though in the end they may destroy even !

most of those who embrace them.

However, the positive conditions of freedom amount to something very much larger than any mere sum of avoidances of failures or mistakes. And the inspiration to a philosophy of education for freedom lies for most of us deeper than the mere need to make our freedom secure in later life, vital though that may be. Both this need and those deeper demands are perhaps most satisfyingly met by Froebel's own fundamental principle: full respect for the integrity and individuality of every child. That most searching of moralists, Immanual Kant saw the supreme ethical law in the principle: treat every human being as an end in himself. But most if not all ethics is pivoted on the so-called "moral subject", either taken for granted or formally declared to be the responsible adult. We may, I think, account it Froebel's greatest revolution that he extended and deepened and transformed this principle by insisting that we must treat not merely every adult but every child as an end in himself!

. And every youngest child, every infant practically from the start. In this way, and in this way only, respect for the integrity and individuality of every human person can be built into all relations of adults to him and into the whole planning and process of education from the outset; and the requisite range of opportunity, the equipment and the capacity and power for freedom will then be seen as part of the very birthright of every child.

source: pages 225 - 228 of Friedrich Froebel and English Education edited by Evelyn Lawrence 1952

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Passer Outre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 8 Feb, 2007 09:57 am
@Article bot,
Article bot wrote:
This suggests that the mantra for every individual and every organization should be: EVERY PERSON HAS THE FREEDOM, THE RIGHT, THE RESOURCES, AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN WHAT THEY WANT. WHEN THEY WANT, AND HOW THEY WANT.

This mantra demands a radical transformation of not only how we learn but of how we live and of how we govern. It outlines a basic human right and a responsibility. It does not give that right and responsibility to the government, to the parents, to the churches, or to any other social entity. It is the right of every individual. It is the responsibility of every social organization. Libraries, museum, parks, health centers, farms, factories, churches, city halls, legislatures and every other corporation and civil organization has the responsibility to provide learning opportunities for ctiizens.


There are several elements involved here that are fruitful, but I guess I'd like to comment upon the whole rights and responsibilities aspect of this. Yes, human beings should have a right to education/learning, but learning is not an entitlement. In a democracy, education is crucial to the working of the process, which means, summarily, that the participants in a democracy have responsibilities. In the Kantian sense, the instrinsic value of the human being demands that learning be allowed to happen; but, also in the Kantian sense, the individual human being is responsible for the learning that he or she exhibits. If the individual pursues education/learning for strictly extrinsic ends, as I see more and more, the learner becomes suspect as an autonomous agent.

There's an old saying about teaching. We can teach thinking, but the student has to exhibit it...
l0ck
 
  1  
Reply Sun 19 Aug, 2007 02:39 pm
@Passer Outre,
i just personally dont like being lied to is all
because hes right its an oxymoron
they expose us to all of the same qualitys there in school and ofcourse we all exhibit similar characteristics because of that
and im forever effected by the qualitys i was exposed to in the education system
wether it helps me with my goals or not all that absorbed qualitys still effect me to this day
and in my case it makes me angry but not in everyone elses
its very critical at a young age, the age we are forced through public education, for questions to be answered about the environment and qualitys to be absorbed that we will use eventually as adults. Qualitys and expierences that will one day become automatic behavior when we become adults, and to take someone elses learning time and cram it full of qualitys leads to a controlled existance..
but really what is freedom or freewill for that matter?
just existing requires you to follow natural laws
public education.. love it or hate it.. its destiny to me and just apart of my character development in this lifetime and obviously many others aswell
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Mon 8 Oct, 2007 07:33 pm
@l0ck,
Does anyone suppose that freedom is possible as an ideal, and a shared form of relationship if truth is beyond our reach? Why is it beyond our reach? If it is not truth, it is hardly education. If one fears to act out of ignorence that one is hardly free. If one acts freely without the truth one is mad. The key to freedom as an ideal must be knowledge, but the chains of slavery are in the bondage and debt one must endure to gain knowledge. It is all a bag. We are all kittens in a bag on our way to the river. Struggle and mew as we choose, or choose not, and the result is all the same. We are done. It is not a choice. There is no choice. The most powerful among us have commited this society to slavery. The choice now is between happiness or unhappiness; between acceptance or revolt.

Here is my plan. Eschew the organization. Eschew the society. Eschew the economy. Reject it all, and do not use the freedom of others as your crutch to freedom. Go it alone. Define yourself apart from society. Make an issue. Stand your ground. Hang on to every indication of a free life: free movement, free thought, and free expression. Learn what you can without being humbled by the institution of learning. If your education is blessed by the powers on high it is damned to you. Be free. Act honorably. Give and demand justice. Be your own cop. Be your own judge. Be your own military. Be your own jailer; and if necessary, be your own executioner. If this is not possible, then do only this: Resist all authority that does not let you judge the facts, and decide for your self. Those who make a monopoly of education make a kingdom of idiots. Undermine them.
perplexity
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Oct, 2007 05:54 am
@Fido,
It is not possible to be your own parent.

Knowledge is organization, society, economy.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Oct, 2007 10:55 am
@perplexity,
perplexity wrote:
It is not possible to be your own parent.

Knowledge is organization, society, economy.


We give birth to ourselves every time we add to what we are, to our knowledge, or understanding.

Knowledge is social, as is truth. But, just as in every civilization that ever crashed and burned, our people are controlled by their access to knowledge, and by the content of the knowledge they are allowed. Do we know the facts about any subject that might affect us? If Global warming is a fact, and yet some people in the pay of the status quo can deny, distort, and deprive the people who must ultimately change their behavior if they are going to reverse environmental damage- the essential facts upon which to base any knowledge, then the effects may be anything but social.

Culture is a wealth of knowledge. How many people actually study culture for the lessons it might offer society? The fact is that power in few hands, power that maintains control by the denial of truth is anti social, anti human, anti environment, and anti change. The great driving force of this society is not truth, or justice; but wealth, and power. What if any brief study of past civilizations show that this same goal caused the destruction of many nations, many lives, and all hope when they were laid upon the alter of luxury and burned? What does the mythic individual do then?

I think one learns on ones own, at ones own pace, and not what one is taught, but to find what is not taught, because in a society where access to the truth is limited then only the unofficial path to truth holds promise. Resist.
perplexity
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Oct, 2007 12:35 pm
@Fido,
The truth is that fiction outsells fact.

:rolleyes:
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Oct, 2007 03:58 pm
@perplexity,
perplexity wrote:
The truth is that fiction outsells fact.

:rolleyes:


The truth is that it is all fiction. (Made, fact, fictio, factio factory -as my old teacher used to say) The truth is a human concept which in no sense demands exactness. So, what really happens? We see a bit of reality that we think we understand objectively, and we make an outline in the form of a concept to explain it, or in a piece of art, to imitate it. A true concept is one that faithfully represents reality. Truth is all made by us, experienced by us, and used by us. Reality just is, not made, but we think, caused. Another thing to consider is this: One cannot present some truths because they are too horrible to entertain anyone but the depraved. In that instance, truth must dress up as fiction and advertize itself as fiction so the audience will not leave shrieking and shocked before the end of the presentation.
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