Lesson 24: Education
Take-home point: Education is absolutely necessary, but the form it takes and the goals it has are devilishly hard to get "right". That said, learning to learn and learning openness may be the most important to navigate today's fast-paced, globalized world.
- Presentation by Michael Molino on the U.S. and French education systems.
Questions brought up by the presentation:
- The educational system of a country must establish whether it wants to meet certain near-impossible goals, such as equality of opportunity (what does this mean for poor/rich, disabled? how can teachers be expected to provide it or evaluated on it?), equality of results (does this lead to mediocrity?), or fostering of excellence (what does that entail? does this mean leaving behind some children?).
- Overall, my opinion is that the U.S. is good at providing opportunity, but students have to *want* it -- they will not be pushed to succeed. France, on the other hand, holds up very high standards but paradoxically allows many to fail.
- Also, the French system is more about knowing vast quantities of information rather than learning to analyze and criticize and think for yourselves.
- On that note, a big problem with education is that it tries to be all things to all people, or solve multiple problems at once. We asked:
What IS education (for)?
[apologies for missing any that came up in class; this is from memory... anyone who took notes is welcome to let me know what I missed...]
- transmission of culture
- satiation of curiosity
- workforce production: knowledgeable/skilled/obedient population
- enlightenment (a la Plato)
- diversity of minds: exchange
- critical thinking/analysis--thinking for oneself--criticizing current society
- literacy: "if you know how to read, you can learn anything"
- learning to learn: with such rapid change nowadays, anything you learn will soon be outdated. (What a Wonderful World lyrics: "I hear babies cry... I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll ever know.")
- conformity/social cohesion/nationalism
- freedom: intrinsic (becoming more fully oneself) & instrumental (ability to function in the world)
- signaling mechanism/certification
- art of B.S.: a very useful life/job skill?
- What are global issues having to do with education?
- country competitiveness
- climbing the value chain: remember the smile curve?
- teaching tolerance (of others)
- cultural exchange
- brain drain or brain gain
- part of addressing health issues
- part of "transforming society" (Stiglitz view of development)
- Why does the government need to get involved in education?
It's a public good, in some ways: the benefits of your being an educated person go beyond just you:
- spill-over benefits: for your family, circle, society as a whole
- personal benefits: especially higher education vs. primary education, in particular if this causes you to leave the country. However, a country needs an educated, professional class (a big problem for Iraq is that so many professionals--e.g., dentists, professors, engineers, lawyers--are leaving to avoid kidnapping and extortion).