Why education is so difficult and contentious

Roam on Sundays IV

A new direction

I’m trying something new this week. Instead of talk notes and essay notes and three quotes, I’m honing the scope of the newsletter to exploring one talk or one essay each week relating to knowledge, reading, writing, creativity, learning, and education.

This week we have an essay from Kieran Egan, an educational philosopher with interesting ideas about why education as we know it today is flawed.

Read in full on [[Roam]] here.

One more thing…

I will be hosting a live Zoom meeting tomorrow, May 11, 2020 at 8 PM EST, to discuss this essay and any related ideas. Think of it as a virtual book club but the topic will be the talk or essay of the week.

Here’s the Google Calendar invite. And the direct zoom.us link.

Essay Takeaways

  • Education is based on socialization, the academic ideal, and the ideal of development

  • Education is fundamentally flawed because the ideas its based on are incompatible and inadequate on their own

  • Humans, when in groups, become contentious by nature

  • The three biggest developments in human intellect have been languageliteracy, and the printing press

    • Each of these developments coincides with ideas about education we have incorporated

      • Language -> Socialization

      • Literacy -> Academic ideal

      • Printing press -> Ideal of development

  • Socialization

    • Socialization arose from the extended period of brain growth outside the womb characteristic of Homo sapiens sapiens

    • Socialization allows humans to teach children during the period of effortless learning to orient themselves within the world

    • Socialization creates fixed and oppositional thinking and what we learn in our foundational years is hard to overcome later in life

  • The academic ideal 

    • The academic ideal strives to compensate for the weaknesses of socialization

    • But most people do not like to read long pieces and cannot write clear prose

    • Even then, knowledge is not in writing, there are only cues to knowledge in linguistic symbols that need to be transformed radically to be brought to life in the mind of a learner

    • The worst of all is that an ideal academic education may not even result in the values Plato wanted to surface like truth, objectivity, and justice

  • The ideal of development

    • Jean-Jacques Rousseau reimagined education as supporting the mind's development to its fullest by learning how it develops through careful observation and reasoning

    • Education now caters to the different learning styles and periods of development in the mind's growth

    • But the revolution promised from knowing more about the development of the brain has not come

    • Humans may not actually have a legible nature as our development is deeply connected to our environment, culture, social experience, and tools for thought that it is hard to separate any regularities from these confounding factors

  • The three ideas supposedly balance each other but in reality, they undermine each other's aims and any educational system that tries to implement all three will always fail at achieving any of them