To What End Education? Part I

The wealth of literature dealing with changes in education since WW II notwithstanding, little in schooling is different now compared to the early post-war years. Little has changed in education save the means. The ends are essentially the same. If we define educational change as alterations in curriculum, pedagogy, or the technology of education that result in students internalizing different values, then virtually nothing has changed in education at all. In my view, unless we rethink the ends of education, no significant change in schools will ever take place. Most change will continue to be more form than substance. We can alter buildings, hardware, software, administrative structures, curriculum, indeed any means in education ad infinitum. However, unless we radically rethink the goals of education, the product will be essentially the same as it is now.

However, do we want students to emerge from our schools with a different set of values than they have now? Perhaps not, in any case to answer this question we must first critically scrutinize our present value system and assess whether or not we wish to alter that system. There is, at this point, little evidence forthcoming to suggest that we do. At present, we seem to be producing essentially the same type of individual, with some refinements and exceptions perhaps, as we did a decade or so ago. Our social system is socializing its members to be competitive, money-oriented, self-seeking, conspicuous consumers. This is not as sweeping or unfounded a statement as it may first appear. Indeed, there is ample evidence to support this view, particularly I as it relates to North American society. With respect to teaching our children to be conspicuous consumers, for example, literally every parent knows only too well that advertising is cleverly designed to work on the subconscious of children, so as to make them badger “Mommy” and “Daddy” into purchasing products with appeal to children’s wants, but offer little objective value for the money they cost. We see proof of this every Saturday morning on any T.V. channel to which one may wish to turn. There, cereal companies direct countless commercials toward young children urging them to eat products, the nutritional content of which is at best questionable.

Advertisers bombard grown-ups, too, with advertising designed to work on the adults’ respective unconscious minds. In 1965 alone, the cost of advertising in relation to product value was close to 8.65% for medical products, 10.8% for soaps and cleaners, and 15.22% for toiletries. As with cereals for children, the value of many of these adult products is questionable. Indeed many may be dangerous (e.g., aerosol containers, many pharmaceuticals, and soft drinks). Moreover, their mass production and heavy promotion directs economic activity away from the production of goods necessary for the minimal wellbeing of the majority of the population. Hence, the Olympic Games in Brazil and Canada go on while hospitals need building and while many cities in North America are in the midst of a housing crisis. Large construction enterprises gain wealth and prestige for massive building projects while many people go without adequate housing.

The other descriptions of the majority of our young people are similarly defensible. For example, a 1969 M.E.Q. study mentions that: “the system of values of the young is highly personalized, in fact it has been learned that five most important values are oriented towards self (success, education, friends, love, being fashionable), while the more clearly social values such as peace, progress, revolution, solidarity, and participation, are less important.” That schools favor such “I” oriented rather than “We” oriented values goes without saying. For proof of this, we have only to read the introductions to any one of the current major curriculum documents issued by the Department of Education for the Province of Ontario or from any other North American jurisdiction for that matter, during the past fifty years for evidence to support this stance. The more things change, the more they remain the same!

WPGrow Marketing