Saturday, October 19, 2013

Education's purpose? To help get students to the point they can learn on their own


Teaching should inspire people to learn on their own - challenge them to learn from the achievements of the past, ask questions, challenge, pose alternatives... 

I came across this video link on a Learning [Re]imagined posting. In this 2012 video, Chomsky talks about two different worldviews on the purpose of education, and then touches on the issues of the impact of technology, education as a cost or investment, and assessment vs. autonomy

I. Traditional Enlightenment Informed View - the highest goal in life is to inquire, create, search or quest for understanding, and so education's role should be to help people determine how to learn on their own and be self directed in finding what is meaningful in their lives

II. Indoctrination View - people from an early age need to be shaped and prepared to conform to society. Chomsky refers to the document 'The Crisis of Democracy, as response to 1960s activism, calling on upon schools, churches, and universities to take control of young who were becoming too free and independent.

Impact of Technology Though recent advancements in technology are significant, Chomsky says their impact is nowhere near those of technologies from a century ago. Examples include:
typewrite to computer vs. the shift from the sailing vessel to the telegraph, and the effect of plumbing on health being greater than antibiotics.

Technology is neutral [like a hammer] and needs to be used with the right framework of understanding in order to yield productive outcomes. For example random use of the internet used without a framework - i.e. capacity to seek out what is significant, question, evaluate, interpret, modify - to direct what matters, results in an assemblage of factoids with no meaning [a cult generator]. 

Cost of Investment Is the role of education to cultivate human capital for society's economic advancement or create free, independent individuals who live fulfilled lives?

Chomsky suggests that building on the greats of the past - artists, scientists... - and encouraging creative exploration to generate new innovations will ultimately result in increasing economic output.

Assessment vs. Autonomy Tests can be useful to inform education - tell an individual where they stand, or an educator where improvements need to be made - but beyond that, tell us very little [e.g. a person may perform well on a test but understand very little].

If used as a set of hurdles, too much of a focus on tests distracts education away from what it should be doing - helping students to learn, understand, explore, inquire, and pursue topics that engage them.

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