Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Few Disparate Thoughts on Education

Just examining the underpinnings and assumptions of schooling and education

A school in Haiti meet outdoors under a tarp since
the January 2010 earthquake. What motivates
the determination to teach and learn
even amid such displacement?
Working with an international child sponsorship organization that is engaged in Christian-based development in 30 countries, I spend some time considering not just the importance of education but underpinnings and assumptions of it.

If our organization supports a school with sponsors' money, it's just helpful to me to consider what's going on in that school beyond the assurance that children are being educated according to widely-accepted standards and for the sake of improving their lives and contributing to the advancement of their community and country.

Attending to the "why" of education--here and abroad and at every conceivable level and from every imaginable angle--might go a long way to helping us understand and direct its power in life-giving ways.  So, a few disparate, initial notes and questions I recently jotted down regarding education:

Education is a justice issue.  Basic knowledge, literacy, understanding, and empowerment are building blocks for meaning, community, cooperation and self-determination.  Denial of access to education, the quality of education, and nature of it are critically important in diversely contextualized settings.

What does a school in a developing country represent?  To an individual?  To villagers or neighborhoods or communities?  To the church?  To a given government or the regime that is in power at the moment?  To an elected government official?  To industry--local and global?

"What's in it for you?"  What's in schooling and education for the participant?  For me?  For us?  For the powers that be?

Look behind established and unquestioned norms and rigors and "givens" of a school's curriculum, priorities, pedagogy, and determination of "success."  At least know what leads to what.

Who is to benefit and how?  This determines to a great extent the shape of formal education.  Follow the influence and funding streams.  What are the assumptions and what are the hoped-for outcomes?

I think of Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and of Parker J. Palmer's work in education.

What kind of education and teaching process liberates heart and mind?  And a whole people?

Consider unanticipated outcomes of schools and education (positively).  Consider unintended consequences.

A liberal arts education is to guide participants to learn to think and act critically and openly and expansively.

Consider the relationship of education to various dimensions of liberty/freedom.

What are the value added aspects of either assumed or intentional moral and ethical teaching in schools and education?  What are the impacts of specific religious instruction in educational settings particularly in developing countries?  Consider, also, the liabilities of this (fundamentalism, regimented thought and behavior).

Lots more related questions I am mulling over.

May education serve something greater than local and international economy and cultural interests, something greater than the interests of the church.  May education serve life.

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