Thursday 1 August 2013

Education and Conservatism

Education and Conservatism

Education is an issue we hear about every other week even if we are not involved in education in any way. It features regularly on the news, teacher pay or benefits, financing, education standards, student behavour, sometimes even teacher behavour. For something that nearly everyone does and then leave's it is truly amazing how often we hear about it and how controversial it is.

It shouldn't be, most people do not even question the idea that mass education is required. That it will involve large numbers of teachers and schools, that it will cost large amounts of money and that the taxpayer will have to pay for it. For the vast majority of people non of that is controversial, details may be but not the big issues. For better or worse the idea of mass education seems settled. What makes education controversial is the idea that it is or can become a panacea to all of our problems.

The word panacea means "a universal remedy", a way to cure all of societies or the economies or the Nations problems in one go. All that is required is enough education. All of the bad habits that people learn growing up can be untaught via education. Not happy with the injustice of the past, you can fix it today via education. People can be retaught, reeducated to think differently so that not only are the injustices of the past exposed as wrong but they cannot now happen ever again because people have been educated that they are and were wrong. If only life were really that simple.

The majority of teachers in my experience want to be professionals (and most are), they want to teach to the best of their ability and give students the best education they can. They also believe that more education is better than less. But is that really true?

What is forgotten is that people are different, both individually and in groups. While the basics of all education should be standard, education should also be tailored to suit the people being educated. Once the basics of a subject have been taught and learnt then the aim should be to give the students a positive push towards gaining mastery of a subject. Let me use reading as an example, once the basics have been taught, students should be encouraged to read what interests them and then be encouraged to read more broadly. But there will come a limit for most people were by education, formal education, should end because it is time to enter the economy and get a job.

Here's something that many teachers forget, they are part of a chain of life, they are not the end result. Schools and teachers exist for a reason and that reason is too often forgotten. The reason they exist is to benefit both the individual student but also society as a whole. The society that paid for the school, the teacher and the student to be there.

Education benefits people and society in three ways:

1) It teaches skills and knowledge

2) It exposes people to a bigger world and broader perspectives

 3) It can give those with talent an opportunity

Skill is an area that schools were once renowned for, it became so accepted that people forgot that what schools and teachers achieve is actually,awesome. They take uneducated people and make them educated people, that's amazing. Everyone reading this site is educated, in fact no one who isn't educated can read this site, it isn't even gibberish to them. That is not a statement about their intellect it is a statement about their level of education. That is how important teaching skills is to our society, to our Civilization.

So when schools and teachers, teach feelings instead of thinking, they cheat everyone. Thinking is a skill, or at least it can be a skill, feelings are important but they are not skills. It is one thing to teach about a historical injustice and what happened and why, but it is not good enough to ask how students feel about it. Feeding Christians to the lions was a terrible thing, but thats my personal opinion, the students should arrive at that conclusion on their own, if they do, not because they are told or encouraged to feel that way. Thats not education, it has a different name, it's called manipulation.

Unfortunately manipulation is something we see far too often in education, it has always existed it isn't something that was invented last Thursday as many would have us believe. It exists because teaching is in many ways a lonely profession, even though most teachers teach groups of students, they are often alone in being the only adult in the room. Even their interaction with other teachers is often brief, a classic case of being alone in the crowd. Not only are teachers isolated but so are schools, many schools don't have any contact with their local community. Locals are locked out of the school, school facilities paid for by society is unavailable to most of that society. Local and large businesses have no relationship at all with schools, it is a rare school indeed that is an exception. But why?

I like boardgames, they can take up alot of room to play and they can take a long time to play, depending upon the game. An empty classroom is a great place to play, lots of tables and chairs, lots of room for boards and charts, players can go into a corner and negotiate without interference from other players. But most schools will not allow it, they either forbid it or they want a fee. Even though the school sits empty for much of the time. Completely empty. No scouts meet, no community groups, no environmentalists, no gardeners and no boardgamers, to name just some of the groups who could benefit. Often even the sports facilities are not used outside of school hours.

The argument is that the school exists for one purpose and that is to educate students. Thats fair as far as it goes, that is the reason that it was built. Another argument is safety, the safety of the school property as well as the teachers, staff and students is of course most important. But often that is used as an excuse, there exist various ways of protecting both people and property from reasonable harm. The mistake is to believe that total safety or security exists, or can exist, it cannot. But the real problem with it is that it disconnects the school from society, instead of the school being a part of the community in which it is situated. It stands apart and encourages both the teachers and the community to see each other as distinct instead of being connected.

Instead of teaching the values that are important to the community, what is often taught are the values of teachers. It is an action that works against families and communities, teachers should be a glue that helps bind society together but too often it seems that this disconnection between schools and the community makes that impossible. Many teachers have no idea what the values of the community are, the disconnection is complete. Manipulation masquerading as education can only be countered if caught early, it cannot be stopped by this disconnection.

Another issue of supreme importance to education is what happens to students when they leave school?

How often is it addressed at all?

 Education is far too often taken to be it's own reward, but it is not, education has a task to do, to prepare students for life after they leave school. So schools reluctance to have any relationship with business is strange. In the end most students will need jobs but how many schools can or even think they should help their students get jobs. No, once your out your officially forgotten.

The reason schools exist isn't just to educate the individual it is also to benefit society, it's not one or the other it's both. Skills are important, knowledge is important, opportunity is important, these are what should be taught.

Upon Hope Blog - A Traditional Conservative Future


  1. Somewhere the other day, I think on Catallaxy Files the statement "If a person has not learned to read, write and count after ten years, another two won't make any difference."
    I went to school in a one room school in which one teacher taught nine grades. The teacher reported to a school board, and was audited by a school inspector. In comparison to today's "education" it was extremely cost effective.
    People are so disconnected from the process, since it was highjacked by the knit-your-own-muesli crowd, that the intent seems to be to spend as much money as possible, as though that is in some way connected to the quality of the process. Your observation that the problems started when the curriculum began teaching people to make decisions based on "feelings" is where the trouble started. The result is idiots like the child senator Hanson-Young.
    Look, it is people that pay the bill in the end. The source of this dilemma is public education. That is the method employed to highjack the process. The Russians learned that if the State produces consumer goods, they are shit. Why do we insist that the State can operate the education process and the health system as well as the private sector? After a while, the product is not only crap, but the cost ten times that which it needs to be.
    And in that one room school, the discipline was reinforced at home. Parents in those days took an active interest in the process. That is another fundamental failing of the current arrangements.

  2. Hi Mark,

    You raise a number of interesting points in this post.

    Can I ask you if there is a general conservative position on mass education? You mention it is generally now accepted by most, but is this because it is simply so entrenched now? Are there some conservatives who would prefer it didn't exist?

    I agree that schools should be more connected to the community. What you say about community groups not being able to use classrooms after hours does seem wrong to me. Do private schools also disallow this?

    Cheers, JJ

  3. Dear JJ

    I think most Traditional Conservatives would find it hard to think of modern society without mass education. Education is admired, which is why you will find us so critical of Ideology pretending to be education. It is entrenched but it is also vital to exist in modern society, not to mention work. Every job is benefited by having people who can read, write and count.

    I think there are some Conservatives who don't want mass education, but from my experience it isn't education they object to, it is the power that it give Governments over our lives and the power it gives to interest groups (Teacher Unions). As well as what I've called the manipulation that takes place. When mass education first started there were some on the Left who complained that students were taught what the factory owner wanted and nothing else, that students were taught to be good little workers, soldiers and citizens. Now they support mass education, of course now they are the ones who manipulate.

    I'm afraid I do not have much contact or connection to private schools so I don't know.