It seems that the dumbing down in education is not simply an Anglo-Saxon model but a European one. A commonality is to be found in my post ‘Knowledge is not a shovel’, itself prompted by Gesine Schwan remarking in Knowledge is not a shovel – Universities and democratic society that:
“The primary aim of education, however one understands it, must be to nurture the ability to reflect, to develop new ideas, and to implement these collectively”.
Gesine Schwan would find much common ground with C S Lewis in saying that:
“Today, discussions about the role of universities concentrate almost exclusively on their contribution to the economic development of a country or region, and more specifically on how universities can contribute to countering unemployment and improving competitiveness. On the whole, the frame of reference for the definition of the role of the university rarely goes beyond this aspect of economic competitiveness”.
In the following extract from ‘Screwtape Proposes a Toast‘ (pdf), C.S. Lewis wrote:
I want to fix your attention on discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence — moral, cultural, social, or intellectual. The spirit of I’m as good as you’ has already begun more than a generally social influence. It begins to work into their education system. The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic”.
At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have “parity of esteem.” (It’s Hell For Democracy)
When entry to higher education is motivated by the political expediency of taking young people off the unemployment register, and where the educational model is driven by ‘economic competitiveness’ (Schwan), then surely it should lead to employment opportunities. What we actually have, is an education system failing to provide the necessary education at any level. Those seeking employment are not only faced with very limited employment opportunities, but often find themselves competing with better educated applicants from nations where Schwan’s educational aims are still applied.
Educational and political chicanery has duped students and ultimately society. A chicanery that has changed not just an education system but in doing so, society itself. If the educational aims advocated by Schwan were applied, politicians may well fear an electorate endowed with any modicum of intellect. Fortunately for them, and as foreseen by Screwtape, we now have an education system incapable of nurturing the ability to reflect, to develop new ideas, and to implement these collectively. One whose sole purpose is the development of economic growth in the face of global competition.
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