What is the Good of Education?

The argument in the piece below is considerably overdrawn at points—not least inasmuch as it carries out an impressively erudite level of analysis and social criticism which must be due, at least in part, to some pretty extraordinary educators. Aside from biting the hand from which food once came, Harris raises important questions about what education does. Specifically, he called into question two paradigms in which I freely admit that I am fully immersed. The first—actually a point made by the book under Harris’ review (Class Dissmissed by John Marsh)—is that education is a socio-political force that works toward equality. The assumption runs thus: if you are fed up with structural injustices that play out along race, class, or gender lines, then funding and supporting education is one of the best ways to begin to level the playing field. The second—a point which belongs to Harris himself—is that education teaches the critical reasoning skills that prevents bullies and tyrants from perpetrating terrible acts. Again, I think that Harris overdraws his argument a bit—surely things would not have been better in the run up to our invasion of Iraq if fewer people in the States were well-educated, but his point stands that education mostly allowed the enlightened left to cry wolf while the war machine rolled right on by.

Marsh, who depicts himself as a veteran of left-wing politics, should know better than to put much stock in teaching students to be critical media consumers. Recognizing and exposing the Bush administration’s falsehoods — as brash and obvious as they were frequent — didn’t do the left much good: It didn’t avert or halt the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, it didn’t stop the tax cuts for the wealthy, and it hasn’t forced us to confront climate change. With more public access to information than ever before, fact-checking can be a cinch, and well-funded nonprofit organizations and popular television shows have devoted themselves to exposing public lies using primary-source documents. But the plutocracy is as bad as ever. In a time when, as Marsh admits, the facts about inequality won’t make a bit of difference on the policy front, how does reading Macbeth help students protect themselves against tyranny?

via School’s Out Forever – The New Inquiry.

I commend the whole piece as a goad for further thought and reflection—mine included.

The New Inquiry — Shyness, Social Media, and the Allure of Control

The shy person’s fear of social failure once seemed disproportionate to what was actually at stake ; it seemed a strictly personal matter with few economic ramifications. But now they shy person’s apprehension of social risk seems entirely rational, as who you know and what they are willing to do for you may be the key to one’s economic survival. Social capital has never been so important, seeming to dwarf the significance of the unexploitable aspects of friendship. This is a reason more and more social interaction registers as inconvenience. Social media allows us to feel we can draw on a huge wealth of information while participating in social life at our own convenience, controlling it to our advantage as a way of managing risk without having to make any compromises or sacrifices to partake in a community, which recedes as a utopian ideal.

via Rob Horning Comfortably Alone – The New Inquiry.

I have been enjoying—and therefore recommend—the mode of questioning and thinking going on over at the New Inquiry. This piece in particular resonated with me, inasmuch as it plausibly links anti-social impulses with immersion in social media. We all know that face-to-face interactions are vitally important to our sanity, well-being, and happiness—yet they are so much less “manageable” than interactions that are mediated through one social media platform or another. The article above does an excellent job of diagnosing the allure of that sense of control.