Thinking, what education is all about

Due to private reasons, I haven't posted something for a while. But I'm back on track now.

At the CLS 10th Anniversary Symposium, Andrew Littlejohn was mentioning McDonaldization of education. For those, who are not familiar with this term, it's coined from George Ritzer's claim of the McDonaldization of the Society. McDonaldization of education means:

[A] process that, if it were taken to its logical conclusion, would transform schools into the instructional equivalent of fast food outlets. Of particular concern is the de-skilling of educators into deliverers of canned programs, the unhealthy standardization of curriculum and pedagogy and the commercialization of public schools. (Leo Casey at Edwize.org)

It seems that this is an issue of the Anglo-American Utilitarian view of education, which is also adopted by the Germans, who had a Humanistic view. The difference is the follows. In the Utilitarian view, the main point of education is getting a degree and training for the job market, while the Humanistic view sees education as (self-)development of the human being. The job market is not focused. Both views are reasonable, however, in their extremes, both are harmful.

Education = jon training? (source)

When focusing only on degrees and training for the industry, educational institutions become lose independence in their decisions, what to teach how. The industry is interested in fast and effective education. So, long-lasting discussions and deep reasoning on difficult issues is not required by the industry. On the other hand, they want well-educated people, being able to think. But thinking is a skill that need constant practice. This view also affects students' attitudes towards learning. First of all, they will choose their majors according to economical needs and income prospects. Of course, this is reasonable to do. However, most of the students will end up studying subjects, they are not interested in. Bored students, however, are not really keen on working hard in their subjects. They only want to do, what they have to to get their grades. Some of them might also have a genuine interest in their subject, they'll do more and will be open. The majority, however, will only do the minimum. And that's bad for society, as a considerable amount of professionals will be uninspired, not happy with their job and therefore not doing a good one.

A romantic view on education alone, wouldn't help us either. Of course, people will start working after finishing their first stage of education (as we are learning all life long, or at least should). So, having the necessities of working environments in mind is not a bad thing per se and should also play a role. Otherwise, you'll have thinkers, who are not able to put theory in action. However, if people study according to their interest (perhaps, guided a little by job market observation (but not to such an extent that a musician studies engineering, because the job market requires her to)), they'll have an interest in their subjects, would be keen on working and thinking about issues arising in their lectures or seminars and take their learning into their own hands. If we are not only focused on grades, we can focus, on what is really necessary - learning, discussing, practice thinking.

As an educator, I want my students to be independent of me when it comes to learning. Of course, I have to guide them through the content. I have to be there, if they encounter problems and have to give feedback on their performance.

From my point of view, education is more than training for the job market, it is a further development of the learners' personalities, enriching their experiences and helping them to become members of society being able to take part in its enhancement. Grades and degrees are necessary and valuable, but not the main point.

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