by Paramjeet Berwal
The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on—because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.
Now, there is a reason to it and it lies in the history of education as a phenomenon. Have you ever noticed that though there is demand for de-regularization of the economic sphere, compulsory schooling is almost mandated by law. How does that make any sense? If lesser laws, per the libertarian view, in the field of economy substantiate the belief in forces of market, what is the point in installing paternalistic legislations with regard to institutionalized compulsory schooling of children? Chomsky, in Class Warfare, (1995, pages 19-23, 27-31), referring to his Mellon Lecture of October 19, 1994, at Loyola University, Chicago, says the following:
“Mass education was designed to turn independent farmers into docile, passive tools of production. That was its primary purpose. And don’t think people didn’t know it. They knew it and they fought against it. There was a lot of resistance to mass education for exactly that reason. It was also understood by the elites. Emerson once said something about how we’re educating them to keep them from our throats. If you don’t educate them, what we call “education,” they’re going to take control — “they” being what Alexander Hamilton called the “great beast,” namely the people. The anti-democratic thrust of opinion in what are called democratic societies is really ferocious. And for good reason. Because the freer the society gets, the more dangerous the great beast becomes and the more you have to be careful to cage it somehow.”
In the Class Warfare, Chomsky points out that “in the field of education, therefore, Dewey held that it is “illiberal and immoral” to train children to work “not freely and intelligently, but for the sake of the work earned,” in which case their activity “is not free because not freely participated in.”
What other academics and intellectuals have to say
Chomsky is not the only scholar, philosopher, cognitive scientist or historian who shares that there is something fundamentally wrong with the education system. There are many intellectuals who have, time and again, pointed this out. On February 7, 2018, in Hutington Hall at MIT, the world renowned public philosopher Prof. Dr. Cornel West, while delivering keynote, exhorted audience to understand what real education was all about – not only informing but transforming oneself into someone who is wise and doesn’t fetishizes smartness or meritocracy. According to Dr. West, the contemporary educational system and its constituent elite or non-elite institutions are marred by provincialism and parochialism. The system, according to the philosopher, has been so designed in a way that even if one harbors any values that matter the most in human existence are filtered out of the system so that the status quo is maintained. It limits the whole process of human advancement that most advocates of liberty and freedom stand for.
If you pick up education policy of any sovereign state in the world, the purpose of education has been limited to making the students ready to be absorbed in by labour market, a market that has no sufficient jobs to absorb all the people that are churned out of a system that indoctrinates young minds and makes them conformists. The students are not made to learn how to think. They are made to learn to think whatever sustains the status quo.
It is pertinent to mention that I am not taking a very superficial view of what educations stands for, today; in fact, I am trying to highlight the basic underlying principle on which the whole education thrives on, in contemporary times. In order for the human civilization to evolve and address the critical questions like dogmatism, fundamentalism, terrorism, social and economic inequality, climate change, xenophobia, anti-globalization, crony-capitalism it is important that children are taught to question everything and imagine beyond what has been fed to them by conventional schooling. According to Prof. Lawrence M. Krauss, the internationally acclaimed theoretical physicist and cosmologist, the current education system is wrong in teaching answers to students in a world that is characterized by unlimited information. He advocates that questions are more important than answers and children should be made to think and questions everything.
In fact, this is how mind is able to realize its potential. Score cards and testing limits one’s intellectual horizon and the dream is no more to change the world for the better but it get narrowed down to job placements in the companies that reward check-boxing and mechanical application of acquired knowledge. Chris Hedges, Pulitzer prize winning journalist, in his book Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, wrote “We have bought into the idea that education is about training and “success”, defined monetarily, rather than learning to think critically and to challenge. We should not forget that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers. A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death.”
The times are changing and companies like TESLA are moving away from the set standards of college degrees and are investing into human capital that is able to break the traditional barriers imposed onto knowledge and imagination. In my opinion, the children should be taught to think, question and be open minded. They should be let free to imbibe the values that will make them better human beings which is the most crucial thing that we need at the moment in order to make some difference to the world.
Paramjeet Berwal is a lawyer and an invited lecturer at the University of Georgia.