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Re: [xmca] Obama's Learn Act

Perhaps this is why the stone keeps rolling back down:

"The school, as an institution, educates... It is at least one of the educators of the generation, it is one of those educators who - to the mockery of all the educators big and small, to the mockery of all the conferences, decrees, sermons - makes each generation into what it is today, what it is over and over again, and precisely what it should not be according to all those promises and demands. - And this is what makes the educational situation ridiculous. There the pedagogical profession thinks, writes, experiments, and acts with fluency and diligence - never noticing how useless its activities have become because they are all taking place at the wrong spot. At the same time, however (and this is the truly negative part), it maintains the existing state of affairs by diverting (itself diverted and active elsewhere) all attention from the enemy. All its strength is thus uselessly wasted, though not unsuccessfully - for, after all, it serves to protect the existence of that which already exists."
Siegfried Bernfeld, Sisyphus or the Limits of Education.


"The limitations of education that cut through the naive idealistic aims of educators are based on deep-running psychological facts that are too often ignored in theories of education. Bernfeld does not muster the kind of detailed empirical evidence on these matters that one would like, but there is much that is appealing about his central thesis. Even if we quarrel about the details, the aspect of education that he brings to the surface and scrutinizes is one that has too seldom been pursued in setting forth the aims of education. I summarize in somewhat bald form the limitations he emphasizes.

1. Teachers are trained to instruct and not to educate. Professional training in instruction is possible, but not in education, given the present makeup of the teaching profession and the institutions that train them.

2. There is a nascent science of instruction; there is no science of education, and there is none in sight. Statements of aims of education are based on sentimental ideals that have no serious chance of being realized.

3. Educational theories have an almost entirely naive conception of childhood, because educators think about childhood and the life of the child in terms of their own conscious memories of the past, but not in terms of the darker side mentioned earlier.

4. Past achievements of great educators are "intuitive products of art, they are not science. Valued as poetry, they may rank high, but by the same token their value as science will be low. The question is, however, whether they want to be and should be valued as poetry. To have to ask that question only shows how disagreeable the situation really is" (p. 23).

5. Educational theory and the statement of the aims of education are awash with a priori assertions. "The science of education asks how children behave, not how they affect the observer. But the great pedagogues of history are concerned with how and what they feel toward children, with emotions such as love, pity, hope, disgust and horror. They do not see the child as it is but only the relationship that exists between it and themselves. Even if they were able to leave themselves out of it, the question as to what the child is, in and by itself, still would not interest them because their sole concern is how to transform it into something else. To them the child is a means to some theological, ethical, or utopian end" (pp. 24-25).

6. More particularly, both the aim and the object of education are given apart from experience. "These pedagogical theories are so constructed as to put them beyond the range of verification. However they may differ in content, presentation and systematic rigor, they rest alike on two fundamental constants that defy empirical examination and correction. These are the aim and the object of education. The views of the object of education, the child, are uncontrollably influenced by unconscious drives while the aim of education is treated as given. The pedagogues will accept nothing less than the highest ideal--moral, social, religious, or intellectual--as the aim of education. It is beyond question, it exists for them prior to and independent of experience" (p. 25)"

The Aims of Education, by Patrick Suppes (1995)
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