“Why the school has been a largely unsatisfactory institution”

“If we want to improve our schools, it is with the abstract and awkward realm of ideas that we must begin.” ~ Kieran Egan (p.x)

“Beginning with ‘the abstract and awkward realm of ideas’ might not sound so bad” Egan notes. “But it can be onerous to think about ideas because they are the things we think with. The difficulty is due to our minds being both a part of the world while also being our means of viewing the world – a notoriously problematic duality, which people keep ‘solving’ for us though somehow leaving us with the problem. Our ideas serve us like lenses that greatly affect what we see. Mostly we take our idea-lenses for granted and assume we see reality directly. We don’t, of course, and it is useful now and then to try to reflect on our ideas – using other ideas, inescapably. Most people today use three big ideas when they think about education. I’ll call them socialization, Plato’s academic idea, and Rousseau’s developmental idea. The combination of these ideas governs what we do in schools, and what we do to children in the name of education.” (p.9)

“Educational practice in the twentieth century generally went forward under the assumption that the flaws in each idea would be compensated for by the other ideas – that is, three wrong ideas would make a right idea. Alas, it doesn’t work, and hasn’t worked, that way.” (p.11)

Introducing his book, The Future of Education, Kieran Egan writes: “…our problems with the school are more fundamental than people today generally believe. To read most books about education, you would get the idea that some particular reform – more attention to ‘the basics,’ more freedom for children’s exploration, voucher systems and market disciplines, greater use of technology, and so on – would make the school work satisfactorily. I will show that the problem with our modern idea of the school is not fixable by the array of remedies currently on offer. The problem lies elsewhere, and fixing it requires of us the tougher task of rethinking the idea of education we have inherited from ancient and more modern Europe and its tangled history.” (p.8) …that is, he suggests in this introduction; we need to rethink the concept of ‘school’ and the conception of education it supports.

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold mine) Kieran Egan (2008) The Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up. Yale University Press: New Haven and London

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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