Nate's interesting question (fwd)

From: David Daniel Preiss Contreras (
Date: Sun Mar 06 2005 - 18:09:24 PST

This has became a quite interesting issue. I think that to take a position
about it, the context matters. Some contemporary economists say that in
developing economies formal education does not add any value to social
development and that somehow its benefits are captured by the few. This is
quite a relevant thesis for developing countries who, as mine, tend to use
education (formal education) as an instrumental tool for social development.
On the other hand, I have heard some sociologists saying that in some cases
it is not schooling what fosters economic development but viceversa.
Economic development goes first and the development of an educational system
comes later. That's also relevant for developing countries as mine who can't
understand how such a bad educational system cohabites with a growing
economy. At the end, I find what Nate called the postmodern critic relevant
for developed economies. But the reality differs in the developing world and
it is not homogenous within these countries either. In Chile, the country
where I live, schooling helps you to get out of poverty and get better jobs.
Are they romantic or self-enhancing jobs? No. I don't think they are. But
they can help you to get your basic needs covered and to learn the basics
you need to deal with the public and private bureocracys -I mean learn how
to apply to State benefits, deal with banks, medical insurance, get an
educational loan, and so on. After schooling is provided, the next challenge
is trying to provide all of our kids with the best education we can give
them, so all of our kids can become what they want to be, scientists,
artists, technicians, etc. Today, it is almost impossible to our poor kids
to have a basic college education, not to think of professional degrees.
Once we arrive to that stage, I would start asking the other postmodern
questions. But schooling go first.


Mike Cole writes:

> Thanks for taking the time to expand on your earlier note, Nate. The
> material on old and new slavery was particularly instructive to me. I
> really could not track the direction of your argument from what you
> wrote in your initial note.
> So I take it that what you are arguing is that one of the positive
> benefits of compulsory
> education is that it reduces child labor, increases social capital,
> and provides future workers with skills that will be important for
> labor in the years to come? This will be somehow real labor, not
> slavery.
> Issues concerning cognitive consequences of schooling remain. I have
> an article coming out in Human Development that you may like the
> conclusions of better than those based on my experiences in Liberia
> and rural Yucatan. Although seeing education's effect in
> Liberia is not exactly my idea of progress. Perhaps Yucatan will
> eventually open up
> other possibilities, although the substitution of working in a kitchen
> in CanCun for living in an ejido 75 kilometers into the interior is
> not a choice I would like to have to face.
> As to getting rid of junk food in California, I wouldn't bet on it.
> Although, I would not have bet on all the rain we have received this
> winter which has filled our resevoirs and turned our deserts into
> gardens, although making life miserable for people who built on
> slippery slopes.
> mike
> PS-- My rather gloomy views concerning the virtues of formal education
> do not stop me from spending many hours a week with children and
> undergraduates whose education I find almost as distasteful as they
> do. Seeking for that way to slim down to get through the needle's eye
> and engaging in what that very same Luria referred to as Romantic
> Science.
> On Sun, 06 Mar 2005 18:35:45 -0600,
> willthereallsvpleasespeakup who-is-at
> <willthereallsvpleasespeakup who-is-at> wrote:
>> >1) Two sets of questions here. First, in what senses and under what
>> >conditions is child labor equivalent to slavery? Second, how is it
>> >distinguished from adult labor under what conditions vis a vis slavery
>> >and for whom?
>> >
>> >
>> I think they are often difficult to distinquish. Kevin Bales does a good
>> job at this and distinquishes old slavery from new. There is of course
>> child labor that includes many criteria for new slavery minus the ownership.
>> Old Slavery
>> * Legal ownership is asserted,
>> * high purchase cost,
>> * low profits,
>> * shortage of potential slaves,
>> * long-term relationship,
>> * slaves maintained,
>> * ethnic differences important
>> New Slavery
>> * Legal ownership avoided,
>> * very low purchase cost,
>> * very high profits,
>> * surplus of potential slaves,
>> * short-term relationship,
>> * slaves disposable,
>> * ethnic differences not important
>> >2) Help me out with some examples here. I spent a good deal of time
>> >working in West Africa where three centuries ago Africans enslaved
>> >each other before schooling ever arrived, then Europeans enslaved
>> >Africans, then Europeans brought schooling (some of it to some
>> >Africans in some parts of Africa). Is it genocidal civil war that is
>> >the deconstructing agent you are referring to? AIDS? I saw more child
>> >labor than schooling where I worked when schooling was at its apex, so
>> >I am having difficulty finding the historical narrative you are
>> >indicating. There is a huge amount of slavery taking place,
>> >quite literally, in the US today and we have formal education stuffed
>> >into every kid's available orifices. I am simply confused by the
>> >causal connections you are indicating.
>> >
>> >
>> It is not enough for schooling to simply exist alonglide, I think it is
>> compulsory education that is key. An example off the top of my head is
>> Kenya that had a degree of compulsay schooling but when that was
>> "deconstructed" (remember the 90's) child slavery emerged stronger than
>> ever. Unicef, UN Right of the Child (US. still hasn't signed) and Bales
>> organization Free the Slaves have various
>> examples that link lack of compusary schooling to child labor.
>> Come on Mike what do you honestly think would happen to "undocumented
>> children" if primary and secondary education were not compulsory.
>> These kids travel around the country - California to Wisconsin and back
>> again, but at least there is some degree of hope via education. The
>> recent study I read from one of the computer companies , why are
>> computer companies wrtiting educational studies anyway - about the
>> dismal state of California education was depressing in deed. At least
>> you'll soon get rid of junk food.
>> Maybe its all in the eye of the beholder. I remember reading Cultural
>> Psychology - way back - seeing the African research as supporting
>> Luria's thesis, but was then taken back by your final arguments. I tend
>> to see "schooling" much more optimistically, but it would be difficult
>> not to and still go to work in the morning. I also live in a district
>> where no child left behind has pushed curriculum in the "balanced
>> literacy" direction.
>> --
>> Website:
>> Blog:
>> Email: willthereallsvpleasespeakup who-is-at
>> "The zone of proximal development defines those functions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will mature tomorrow but are currently in an embryonic state.
>> the "fruits" of development. The actual developmental level characterizes mental development retrospectively, while the zone of proximal development characterizes mental development prospectively."
>> - L.S.V.

David D. Preiss
home page:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 01 2005 - 01:00:05 PST