Also check out: 5 Things in Education We Need a New Name For
School is riddled with misnomers and obsolete terminologies. Relics of the days we are glad we no longer have to live. But as our world moves on, some words have stood the test of time. They bind us to power structures that lay at the very foundations of how we use knowledge and education. But the smell lingers, a smell that is so old we have gotten used to it. Here is another installment of words up for review:
It comes from the Latin meaning “to have been instructed or led”. And since we scarcely use any other word to describe the cultivation of knowledge, we are stuck thinking that all valid intelect comes through a heirarchical process. But that is not the worst of it. We also use the word as an adjective in the passive form. One is not “educative” in the sense that they pursue knowledge. One is “educated” in the sense that knowledge is done to them by others. It also implies that the process is complete, in that the bearer has gained a status or brevet to their name. It gives validity to achieving a status, rather than the virtues of pursuing knowledge. This places a value on it that is extrinsic rather than intrinsic, leaving the student dependent on the affirmation of institutions. Now that you have been educated, you must be employed. You will be set free once you have learned to put the chains on all by yourself. We need a word for education that implies active pursiuit, not passive conformity.
Its what my mom gives me for not cleaning my room. Are they trying to make it sound boring? Not that lectures are necessarily boring. They have changed a lot since the days of professors mumbling words from the pages of a dusty volume. Lectures can be vibrant, extemporaneous presentations lovingly prepared by great minds. No need to make them sound like a drag. Even at GITMO they at least call it “enhanced interrogation“. Can’t these wordsmiths give lectures a better name?
The real question is why do we have to go to them? Cant we just watch a video of it? Unless there is some crucial interactive element of the lecture, or an amazing guitar solo that must be experienced live, it seems counter-productive for everyone to be present. The better professors are starting to put their lectures online. Other professors are insecure about soul-sucking magic-shadow recording devices and fads like the “internet”. They are not giving away the shop just like that. If they record their lectures, then what will we need them for? What indeed.
If not for its redundancy, or the extortionist price-fixing, then for its archaic presumptuousness. In any other industry, forcing participants of a compulsory program into buying a product of your own publication would be the sort of conflict of interest that deserves the attention of auditors.
Not in schools, though. Over the generations students have been numbed into submission. The end-users have no choice but to accept the word of a single hard-cover volume, at an uncompetitive price, and not last years version. No wonder so many graduates of our education system, despite their exposure to the broad concepts of science, still look to books like the bible for answers to modern questions. They have been taught to see the world in this way.
Kids hate lugging them around, college students hate having to buy them and nobody knows what to do with them when they graduate. They are literally dead weight; monolithic symbols of lazy, out-dated schooling. As online digital alternatives are so obviously accessible, the whole thing just comes across as a scam. Because it is.
The work that follows you home. It is important to instill this truth upon children as early as possible: There is no place to hide from toil. Idle hands are the devils tools, so keep those kids busy working.
The very word “homework” gives permission for school to enter a child’s home. Its power and doctrine rule over private life. By teaching this value at an early age, it forever usurps the concept of personal freedom and leisure. Why not call it something more fun? Why not make it something more fun? Where is the power structure in that?
The opposite of failure. No, not success. Just permission to pass through the next door in Kafka’s Castle. Behind the next door is the rest of your education. Technically you have the right to it, but it must be earned. Knowledge is a commodity held by the powers that be. It is not acquired by free association or self-determination. It is distributed based on a carefully monitored set of behaviours. Its value is determined by scarcity, not abundance. Education is indeed a class struggle. And while public education works to flatten traditional social stratification and make knowledge available to all, it replaces a privilege based economy with a moral one. Your fate no longer solely depends on your ancestry, it now also depends on your conduct. We do not learn, we simply pass to the next level.
Especially when used as a verb. To fail. Or worse, to be failed. When a teacher does it to you, it is not so much a result of their failure. More like punishment for yours. Failure is more than a blunt weapon of persuasion. It is a way of making sense of the world. To fill the failure quota is to satisfy the needs of a bell curve. Any sustained variation would raise concerns. As far as the school system is concerned, failure is necessary. Success depends on others failing.
They tell us that society needs people to pump gas. And that school is a way of finding a place for everyone. Except that jobs like pumping gas dont exist anymore. And every job like it has gone to Asia. Besides, we should be happy those jobs are gone. They are a terrible waste of a life. School should be setting the bar a little higher. Instead of expecting failure, schools should be trying to overcome it. Instead of abandoning those who fail in spite, schools should be finding the skills they have. That’s the job. It is not a processing center, it is a place of learning.