Sunday, 30 December 2012

School Is Dead - Chapter 6

An inauspicious start to the chapter but he got there in the end

"Churches were remarkable among other institutions, until recently, only for their hypocrisy."

Really? Churches have a monopoly on hypocrisy? What about governments? families? armies? community groups? sporting clubs?

I get the point - yes, churches were, are and always will be flawed, just like any organisation that is run by people. And yes, they are full of hypocrites - come along and see, we can always use a few more.

I think the important point is that there are no "perfect organisations" - no perfect schools, no perfect governments, no perfect families.

Confusing "need" with "product"

One big problem that Reimer identifies with a consumer society is that products are always promoted as "needs" - and our need to consume is constantly growing.

And people can be controlled and manipulated by whoever controls the supply of the product, much as a drug addict is controlled by his/her supplier.

He sees schools as being a product that is presented as a "need" - we are told that we cannot get education without attending school and being a part of the system. And the controllers of this product can control the consumers.

Developing countries can never catch up to the developed world

The temptation for developing countries is to try to improve their own standards by imitating western countries. To improve your education system, you need to copy the system that is successful elsewhere.

"Brazil, spending fifty dollars per student per year, can never have the schools which in North America cost a thousand dollars."

Trying to copy the systems and organisations of the developed world will never elevate developing countries out of their poverty. Developing countries do not have the money or resources needed to catch up. To do so, they would need more money, more food, more schools, more technology than the western countries that they are chasing.

"The follower must, therefore, not only remain behind but fall further behind as long as he adopts the means of development of the leader."

Finally, a suggestion of a solution

I've been struggling with the negative approach of this book. I have been tempted to put it down and give up, turned off by the constant complaints about what is wrong with the system and how it all needs to change.

But (finally) we have the first glimpses of a possible solution.

"Developing nations must invent their own institutions." Copying the western model isn't going to work.

"What must be new and indigenous are the institutional patterns" - how needs will be met, how people will be fed, educated, protected, clothes, sheltered - all this needs to be defined and organised under a new framework, decided by the people that it seeks to serve.

One big problem here is that "developed nations now have an effective, if not necessarily deliberate, monopoly on the means of modern invention." What hope is there then?

Revolution? Throw out the despotic rulers of the world? Up-turn the apple cart of history? Throw off the yoke of the oppressors?

Maybe it will come to that. 

But maybe we need to ensure that what we replace the old machinery with is going to be an improvement.

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