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We don’t need no education

Education
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The uniform British schoolchildren are forced to wear is designed to get us used to wearing what we’re told elmimmo under a Creative Commons Licence

Education seems to be the key word in politics these days. Governments across the world have pondered the best way to shape future generations, but their methods have often taken on a similar structure and fulfilled similar purposes.

While some see education as mandated through schools and universities as a way to enrich young people’s minds and help them fulfil their intellectual capacity, the truth is that the education system is solely designed to produce workers for a capitalist world order.

Enriching young minds is not on the agenda. Education is primarily about creating passive, consenting adults who don’t try to think outside the set parameters.

This may appear a somewhat cynical take on educational models, but if we take a closer look,  it becomes easy to see how education helps the power structure recreate itself time and time again – specifically a white, patriarchal, capitalist structure.

The basic structure of schooling shows us this. School, like the corporate world, tends to be organized around a five-day working week. The school day also takes on a similar format to a work day, operating roughly around an eight-hour-a-day work schedule – at least in Britain.

The schedule conditions children into a routine that they will follow for the rest of their lives (albeit with even longer hours and even less stimulation).

The uniform British schoolchildren are forced to wear is designed to get us used to wearing what we’re told, preparing us to wear suits to work as adults. A work suit is seen as the hallmark of a successful career, rather than a glorified prison outfit we have no choice but to wear.

Do children really need to be shackled for eight hours a day, five days a week? It seems unlikely. This is particularly damaging since most of the time is spent indoors rather than outside or fostering their creative sides.

As Ken Robinson notes in his excellent and must-watch Ted Talk ‘Do schools kill creativity?’, schooling places more emphasis on teaching us maths and science than allowing children to express their dramatic and creative sides.

That’s because most careers which facilitate and work in tandem with capitalist economies require people to be drone-like. Our bosses want us to be able to perform tasks when asked to, but they don’t want us thinking too far outside the box.

Capitalism doesn’t foster creativity or free thinking, as that would pose a danger to the status quo.

Noam Chomsky captured this wonderfully in remarking that ‘the whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on – because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.’

His point is particularly poignant when we notice how those less willing to conform are usually called ‘troublemakers’. Children who question authority are seen as naughty and rebellious, when in reality questioning authority is an incredibly important thing to do.

How does this promote bright minds? It doesn’t. Those most likely to succeed are those who quickly learn to become complicit and passive when dealing with authority figures.

Doing what you are told is what schooling is about. This is exactly how the government works and is exactly how major corporations work.

It’s not surprising that so many bankers involved in corrupt practices willingly comply instead of becoming whistleblowers. One former Credit Suisse AG banker embroiled in a scandal involving tax evasion was told by his superiors: ‘You know what we expect of you – don’t get caught.’

Jobs such as his are coveted in our society and schools, where earning material wealth, rather than achieving personal happiness, is promoted. Children and teenagers then begin to value the wrong things, and that distorts our own realities.

In 1968, Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire raised some of these issues in his seminal work Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire theorizes that teaching children to memorize intensely means they do not focus on developing the critical consciousness that is key to deconstructing oppressive power structures.

This is even more problematic when much of what children are taught revolves around reaffirming a white, capitalist patriarchy, which offers a distorted view of society, particularly with regards to revisionist, racist history curricula in Britain.

What we need is a wholescale re-education process that puts emphasis on child enjoyment, creativity and free thinking, rather than blind conformity. We need to encourage children to become co-creators of knowledge, not empty vessels into which we must pour what we think we know.

Any movement for social change on a grand scale needs to start by changing the way in which children are educated. Using the same methods of education that have been used to maintain the current system will only continue to perpetuate the problem.

We need a revolution within our schools. The current system is merely a glorified form of corporate and state indoctrination and it is failing our children.

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