Discarding the idea of education as transmission, brief thoughts.

Wednesday evening, Philosophy of Education discussion.

The dominant power in a society ultimately wields the arms of education in both its delivery and curriculum which it provides. Institutional power structures have been seen throughout the historical context, stretching from the churches influence through to modern day neo-liberal structures. In all cases the institutional power has been gained and lost, but a recurrent theme is the significant rigidity and structure which these institutions force upon education. The significant structure and enforced frame work results in high levels of transmission which are doctoral and encourage the absence of alternative or belief based thoughts of an individual. 

If these power structures have continually existed and based on the historical context will continue todo so, how can we ensure that our education is more morally conscious and one which engages a learner and their own belief system to rationalise what they are being taught. The author discusses opportunities of conversational engagement with the curriculum topic to judge, infer and determine what is thought. However, the neoliberal system values set types of educational knowledge and therefore ultimately success is delivered to those who most readily dispel their own beliefs to adhere to those transmitted by the system. To solve this problem of the institution only valuing set forms of knowledge and learning, teachers should be responsible for the appropriate, morale delivery of information. A practitioner should be professionalised and empowered to engage student belief systems in determining whether set  delivered information is of value to them.

Professionalising teachers is important, engagement in the moral discussion of knowledge with students is important, but having a defined curriculum means that teachers must engage in the transmission of knowledge. Professional teachers, who are trusted and engage learners deeply in educational knowledge is demeaned by over accountability of one defined successful form of formal education (yes engage in these conversations, but they are fundamentally meaningless). A defined curriculum, means that transmission of formal knowledge engagement can superficially include morale discussion, but ultimately success is only accomplished when their is direct transmission. Consequently, all aspects of formal education only involve direct transmission, morale engagement by a practitioner can only remain superficial (optional) if success is in the current system is to be support. 

So the questions are, who defines the curriculum? Who defines success? Why are people beliefs, values and morale approaches ultimately disengaged with when trying to deepen the importance of educational engagement. Does this mean teaching out side of the doctrine is a waste of time because ultimately it will have a net negative effective on the outcomes for students?

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Neo-liberalism in the workplace – A thought

“Market rhetoric logic is that teachers are treated like education units and as a result they are performing as such and not an involved and committed professional.”

Innovation, creativity, professionalism and pride have all been tainted by the misunderstood nature of “market rhetoric” or neo-liberal reforms. Gaining gravitase in the 1950s through the world over for its “innovative” influences within the market place, it was therefore logically assumed that neo-liberalism was the cure needed for all aspects of the human condition that rendered a system ineffective.

The Human Condition:

  • Variability
  • Multi-faceted
  • Unpredictable
  • Loving
  • Passionate
  • Pride

Cure:

  • Remove variability
  • Remove external factors
  • Remove unpredictability
  • Remove love
  • Remove Passion
  • Remove Pride

Why? A system which runs on factors that can not be appropriately quantified and controlled can be assumed to be having a negative or inconsequential effect on what is considered desirable learning. The demand for absolute control and no professionalism makes 100% sure that maximum learning is occurring every second. To do this we need to remove all variables from both teacher and student.

It almost sounds like a segment from Orwell’s animal farm, “Let’s face it: our lives are miserable, laborious, and short.” (Will this be the final punch line in the staff room?)

Order, control, obedience, ranking, systematised and quiet (This sounds like an exciting place)

Order, control, obedience, ranking, systematised and quiet (This sounds like an exciting place)

No, this isn’t an abandoned factory from the now long forgotten industrial era in the UK, but actually a collection of adjectives to describe an Ofsted accredited outstanding school in a nearby local area. So, why was I led to his school? I was invited by the assisted head teacher, following a long debate on how appropriate it was to rank all students in each year from 1 to 180. For someone who is more focused on developing the individual, this seemed highly counterproductive and quite frankly dangerous for the psychological health of students.

Very quickly after discussing with students the impact of the ranking system it was quick and easy to discover that this method fostered peer pressure, stress and social dysmorphia – however, results were higher (so that’s all that matters, right?). After dodging many of my questions on how students were supported through this, I was guided around the college, through an assessment PowerPoint and into classrooms to observe.  It was good to hear (irony) that all lessons in science were uniform, with all activities, assessments, homework’s and teachers – all uniform (actually this does sound like a functioning 19th century factory – is that what education really is?). All in all, there is a sacrifice that has to be made to achieving outstanding Ofsted and exam result. What we idealise to what we consider as realistic. 

What did I take away?

There was a clear contrast between new innovative pedagogy and innovative, neoliberal pedagogy (Other school). How do they contrast? The latter is highly business orientated and focuses on improving processes and deliverance of an already determine model (“I talk, you learn”) – not changing but increasing transference by reducing deficiencies. The prior refers to developing new methods of pedagogy that engage and entice all agents in education to genuinely address the requirements of every person (both students and teacher): to be an individual; to understand the ramifications of your knowledge beyond the exam result;  to hold a vision and to never stop changing – because the world doesn’t.

I feel like a professional teacher. What does that mean? I can only really define this anecdotally as opposed to offering a defined definition and I think this is because teaching is a deeply personal profession and trying to define a professional role on to a person doesn’t and can’t work. Back to the anecdote, I am able to immediately respond to the needs of the learners; drop an entire lesson plan because it no longer suits; teach without a power point and continually make mistakes. So I ask you, what is your philosophy of education? How would you define yourself as a teacher? I guarantee you that it won’t be the same as mine.